Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Rather Long Goodbye

Call me unsentimental, hard-nosed, head strong, a cool customer or a tough nut (my mother's fave term of endearment for me), but I think Dan Rather should be doing a dance of joy that he lasted 44 years at CBS instead of boo-hoo-hooing his way off the stage and into the crisply pixellated sunset of HDTV. In a story in today's New York Times , Rather sounds distinctly pissed at his former employers: "My departure before the term of my contract represents CBS's final acknowledgement... that they had not lived up to their obligation to allow me to do substantive work there." That's right, I have no doubt that the honcho's at CBS had the septuagenarian emptying trash pails, answering telephones and leading tours around the newsroom while fighting off the unwelcome handsy advances of senior newsmen.

Give me a break, Grandpa! You've had your job--a great job, an exciting job, an important job where someone did your make-up for you every single day(!)--for 44 years. Forty four years! That's two score and four for anyone who keeps score. How many of us folks in the media today think we'll be able to hold on to a job for that long? And if you do, A) I need your contact info and B) I need the number of your dealer.

Yeah, I suppose one could say, "But Robin, the man has faithfully served our nation for four decades, doesn't he at least deserve a dignified goodbye like that 4 hour "We Love You Katie" Today Show type thingy?" And before snickering at the state of hagiography we bestow upon our camera puppets, I might remind you to briefly pause to recall the whole "oops, turns out I made up evidence and reported it as fact," Bush skipping out of National Guard Duty business. See some felt that Rather really should have bowed out at that point. Me being one of the some. (Look, no secret Dubya weaseled his way out of service, but forging documents to prove the point is unseemly any way you slice it.) Let's say, though, that you didn't think the issue of journalistic integrity was terribly important. Say you thought to yourself, "Good Lord, this man has been on the front lines of more hurricanes, war zones and Puerto Rican Day Parades than anyone should ever have to endure. He should get a pass on fudging facts regarding the President considering the President fudges facts all the time--and the commandant's fact-fudging drags our country into a deadly protacted war with no exit strategy--let's just give Danny-boy a pass on this one." Sure, I'll give you that, especially since a multitude of other broadcasters have been given passes (Hello Rush, you illegal drug abuser! How's it hanging with you and the sexual harassment stuff, O'Reilley?)

Still, rather than bemoaning the fact that he's being sent to the glue factory, I think he should be thrilled it didn't happen a lot sooner. But ultimately I think I know why Mr. Rather seems so down... No one wrote him a torch song sign off to sing. Oh, Connie... Journalistic integrity, where hast thou gone?

...actually, Jay has some ideas on this subject today, too, so hop on over to the McSweeney's site to read what he has to say.


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