In case you weren’t aware of this, which, given the ratings of “CBS News,” is very likely, Dan Rather announced that he will step down from the anchor desk in March of 2005. Rather’s defenders in the big media point the finger at bloggers for his troubles. Sure, and there are lots of busted bank robbers who blame the security camera, too.
Rather was never able to recover after the phony National Guard documents fiasco, and now, even though he’s stepping down from the anchor desk, he’s going to keep his “60 Minutes II” gig. The latter is just in case anybody over at CBS ever figures out how to properly use Microsoft Word and Photoshop so it’s undetectable to even the most attentive of bloggers. The fact that Dan is still going to be doing pieces for “60 Minutes II” is quite telling about the mindset of “CBS News” execs. This is like taking Joseph Hazelwood’s key ring, removing the key to the car, and leaving him the key to the oil tanker.
Since we all tend to support charities closest to home, one of Rather’s most vehement defenders is fellow scratching post for bloggers everywhere, Bill O’Reilly.
In a Boston Herald op-ed, O’Reilly believes Rather “made a mistake … but is not dishonest”, a line Bill himself has no doubt been repeating often in private circles ever since the debut of “The Phone Sex Factor,” and accompanying lawsuit.
O’Reilly completely misses the mark. The point isn’t necessarily that Rather knowingly put forward false documents in the hopes that they would be catastrophic to the Bush campaign – it’s that Rather’s Pavlovian response of wanting the documents to be authentic caused his research to be as thorough as your average 17-year-old boy trying to do algebra homework while a “Baywatch” rerun is on television.
Since Rather got busted, and the announcement that he was stepping down as anchor, stock in “CBS News” employees has gone not down, but up. A few days ago, CNN hired former “CBS News” executive Jonathan Klein to run its operation.
If this is how CNN plans to increase ratings, I’d say “FOX News” is safe. Hiring a former “CBS News” executive to steal FOX viewers is like a NASCAR driver, noticing that he’s a lap down, scrapping his car and jumping on a pack mule. Maybe what CNN needs to do is hire away O’Reilly. Perhaps they’ve already called him and left a message, but when Bill made the return jingle, CNN staffers were simply too nervous to pick up the phone when his number showed up on their caller ID.
Klein is also an established critic of the bloggers, describing it as a guy “sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing.” I’d add five words to the end of that sentence: “… and doing Dan Rather’s job.”
Back at CBS, front-runners for Rather’s chair are John Roberts and Scott Pelley, but if the network isn’t afraid to show its bias, and we know they aren’t, they could go outside the network to find a much better choice as anchor. James Carville comes to mind first.
Entertaining, fiercely partisan, and unapologetic about it, Carville isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong. On “Meet the Press” recently, James pulled out an egg and smashed it on his head, covering his dome and mug with slimy yolk, the egg oozing down his warlock-esque face, a visual that must have made even the hardiest of iron-bellied Cajuns projectile hurl their gumbo halfway across Shreveport. Carville did it to demonstrate how he had egg on his face after predicting Kerry would win the election. This kind of shtick would be great on the network news, and had Rather done this, it could have saved his job.
CBS should also consider interviewing former Iraqi Information Minister extraordinaire, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, better known as “Baghdad Bob.” The king of denial could take over without a need for CBS to break stride.
If CBS really cared about the truth, they’d start their anchor interview process by talking to “guys sitting in their living rooms in their pajamas writing.”
“The CBS Evening Blog” could be an enlightening venture into the future of news dissemination, but the network will hold firm and insist on a person who will secure the line that keeps the Big Media ship firmly in place, not drifting with the current of the times, as ratings continue to sink. History will show this is why they were called “anchors.”