Legendary journalist Dan rather honored on Slate’s 80 of 80 list
Legendary journalist Dan Rather is featured on Slate’s List 80 Over 80, featuring the most influential Americans 80 and over.
The magazine describes the former CBS Evening News anchor as “the archetypal, old-school, sober, authoritative American journalist.”
Some of this comes through in the last book of Rather, “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism», Which addresses the themes of resilience and hope. And he’s right with sharp political analysis and straightforward explanations of current events on his Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The 89-year-old says he is honored to be on the Slate List, which was created a decade ago to poke fun at our society’s obsession with youth exceptionalism. But he says getting older – and being on an 80 out of 80 list – still takes some getting used to.
“I say that with a big smile, because the longer I go, the more I know how important it is not to take yourself too seriously,” she said. “But so I go there every day, and I thought today, that I’m so thankful that I was able to live this long.”
Rather, Twitter has also become famous for its scathing rebuke from President Trump and outspoken words about the need for increased economic relief in the pandemic. But he was reluctant to try Twitter at first, and he says he only started tweeting after young staff at his media production company News and Guts practically asked him to join.
“Twitter was a pleasant surprise for me,” he says. “On the one hand, on Twitter you can use humor a lot more than what I would call, you know, regular news platforms.”
The connection he feels with people on social media is “much more satisfying” than he has experienced in his 24 years as a news anchor, he says.
“The most important thing about it is that you’re building a community and having a conversation with the community and getting feedback, and frankly I’m learning a lot,” he says. “And often what I learn is that I was wrong about something. It’s great to have a two-way conversation with people.
Rather retired from CBS News in 2006 following a controversy over a “60 minute” story on President George W. Bush’s National Guard Service. Rather, he says he has worked hard to rebuild his career since then, launching his television series “The Big Interview”, writing two books and running his production company.
“I learned humility, which is not a word typically associated with past or present TV presenters,” he says. “I also learned that when you’re knocked down, you have to get up. It’s not healthy for your career, it’s not healthy for you to stay down.
Rather, he says he fears that the mistakes journalists make may contribute to the erosion of public confidence in journalism, which was under attack during the Trump era.
“The answer to what we can do about it is the first thing, do our job as well as we can,” he says. “And keep in mind that every time we make a mistake, we have to admit a mistake and explain what happened, be very transparent.”
The key to overcoming this dissolution of trust will be to educate future generations on how to be more demanding of the information they consume. But he predicts that skepticism about journalism – and officials who try to diminish confidence in it – will be with us for a long time.
Despite his concerns for the future, Rather says he is hopeful for the new year as “the country is going to make an important new start.” Many of the problems of 2020, including the pandemic and economic hardships, will persist, but instead says 2021 gives us the opportunity to ‘restart’.
“My hopes are high,” he said. “I think they are not unrealistic, but I have great hope that we, as a country, as a people, as a society, can make a new start, and this new start will be much better than what we have known in the past year.