Dan Rather: Journalists Have Lost Their Guts

Image: Dan Rather: Journalists Have Lost Their Guts

Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 06:43 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Former CBS Nightly News anchor Dan Rather says that journalists have "lost our guts" fearful of reporting "something people in power don't like," The Toronto Star reported.

Rather, 82, was in Canada to speak at a fundraiser for the Women's College Hospital Foundation. He left CBS in a contentious parting of the ways in 2006 after 44 years, including 24 as anchor. During that time, he covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, al-Qaida's 9/11 attacks, and America's wars.

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"I think journalists and journalism— certainly in the U.S.— we lost our guts. An attitude got around: Be careful, because if you report something people in power don't like, you may have to pay a very heavy price for that. That's not in the best tradition of U.S. journalism, nor do I think it's in the best tradition of the free press anyplace," said Rather.

In the course of his career, he witnessed first television and then the Internet become the "dominant source where most people in the world got most of their news first," he told the Star.

He said people needed to be concerned about the "consolidation of media ownership," which has resulted in "less competition" and "the trivialization of news."

In the past decade or so, he's seen a decline in the standards journalists hold themselves to. There is less original foreign news coverage with fewer reporters actually sent abroad. Instead of on-site coverage,  news outlets provide — often uninformed — commentary about international events from their studios, he said.

The problem, said Rather, is that along with the rise of the Internet it has become hard to pay for premium coverage of world affairs. And it is not clear what sort of business model could turn the situation around.

The decline of journalism has done damage to society, which depends on an informed electorate.

"You debase the standards of press coverage in a free country, and you're dealing with the vitals of the country," he said.

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