The Dan Rather Fiasco: A Fitting End to American Journalism

The apology over, Dan Rather lurched from his resting place and made his way towards the studio’s exit. A car was already waiting.

The drunken haze of a half-dozen Manhattans and apple martinis coursed through Rather’s body. Bleary-eyed, mouth agape, guttural, he staggered to the final resting place of Edward R. Murrow.

Trousers are unzipped. Fury is unleashed. And then, his spiritual and physical desecration complete, Rather stumbles over the headstone, legs akimbo, vague gurglings coming from the back of his throat. Indistinct moans of apology.

Nothing less would be a fitting marker of the end of broadcast journalism.

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To those hardworking “journalists” at the Columbia Broadcasting System, I salute you.

It takes a certain level of skill to end the venerable institution you once created in such a mind-blowing fashion. Yet in one fell swoop you have managed to not only euthanize the lifeless remnants of broadcast news, you’ve also succeeded in driving the 2004 elections so far off course that the major campaign issues consist of candidates defending military records from 30 years ago. Bravissimo.

Of course, your figurehead’s recent admission to fudging facts couldn’t have come at a better time. Why apologize for your shameful trumpeting of war for the past year when you can make a pointless gaffe in a story that’s more or less accurate?

After all, your venerable news outlet can parrot the party line being belched from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for months at a time and it can slander Democratic nominee John Kerry his war decorations. But when the house of cards collapses, who gets the teary-eyed apology?

George W. Bush. Because even though he’s absolutely, 100% guilty of abandoning his cushy post to go to Business school and work on political campaigns, the veracity of some old documents that only continue to highlight his stellar inability to do anything worthwhile in his life except snort cocaine up his nose and drive like a madman demand an on-air confession that CBS wasn’t a totally rock-solid bed of journalistic integrity.

Meanwhile, news outlets around the world devote time better spent on meaningful issues to castigating other news stories. The news isn’t even about world events any more, it’s about goofing on one another.

Broadcast journalism has become a drunken fraternity party. Any respectability was lost long ago, and like a hung-over sorority girl doing the Walk of Shame, has a long, painful journey back to dignity.

Why even bother? Broadcast news is already a hodge-podge of celebrity gossip and government propaganda. There is literally nothing meaningful to be gleaned from television news. Whether you’re watching the around-the-clock coverage of a fake kidnapping on CNN or learning about the latest dance craze that’s sweeping the Southland on local television, you’re not hearing about the draft that’s coming in 2005 or reading about the mounting casualties in Iraq. So just give in, CBS, to your darker impulses. Don’t pay lip service to the standards you set down with an occasional hard-hitting piece with numerous factual errors. Devote yourself wholly and completely to Britney Spears’ latest wedding.