Off The Written Path

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Off The Written Path

Dan Rather Shares Journalism Insights With Students

March 8th, 2011 · No Comments · C-SPAN Video Conference

U.S. journalists need some backbone Dan Rather told college students Feb. 24 during a video conference broadcast live from C-SPAN studios in Washington, D.C.  

“American journalism, in many ways, needs a spine transplant,” Rather said, “We’ve lost some of the grit in our gut. We’ve lost some of our courage, if you will.”

Rather, a former CBS Evening News anchor whose noted career has spanned the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the current Iraq War, answered questions from students during the video conference. The question and answer session was part of an University of Denver and C-SPAN long distance learning course, in collaboration with The Cable Center. Participating in the video conference with Denver students were students from George Mason University, Purdue University, and Georgetown University.

“I wholeheartedly agree with Dan Rather,” said Aisha Jamil, a Mason student who participated in the video conference. “Most journalists today, especially in America, have lost the meaning of what a journalist truly is,” Jamil said in an email, “They are more interested in gaining ratings, giving their own opinions and making money.”

Rather, who now hosts a news program on HD Net, pointed to several reasons why he thinks journalism today is missing some “guts.”  He said news have become:

  • Corporatized
  • Politicized
  • Trivialized

Rather also said individual journalists share some of the blame.

“Far too much, people went along to get along,” Rather said referring to news coverage leading up to the current Iraq War. Rather said journalists, including him, were hesitant and afraid of being called unpatriotic to ask the tough questions that needed to be asked before the war.

Rather also shared with students three qualities he believes make a good journalist:

  • Curiosity
  • Relentless determination
  • Ability to write well and quickly

“Curiosity is the bedrock of being a good reporter,” Rather said.

Steve Scully, senior executive producer and political editor of C-SPAN, hosted the video conference. Jon-Christopher Bua, a White House commentator and U.S. political analyst with U.K.-based Sky News, joined Rather and Scully in Washington D.C., and Tucker Carlson, co-founder of The Daily Caller, joined the video conference about 25 minutes into the class.

The C-SPAN distance learning course allows students to interact regularly with notable speakers in politics, media, history, and government via video conference. The class video conferences can be viewed at


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