Dan Rather says working at HDNet is “about as close to journalistic heaven as I expect to get.”
And tomorrow, it’s officially twelve months of heaven: the first anniversary of HDNet’s Dan Rather Reports, a one-hour, weekly news program. Tuesday’s show, “A Crack In the Ice”, on global warming, takes Rather to Canada’s Northwest Passage and the Arctic ice cap.
Previous Reports have focused on touch-screen voting problems and the controversy over children’s cold medicines, among other topics. “I love what I’m doing now,” Rather says.
It’s a long way from retirement for Rather, who just turned 76. He says that “as long as I have my health, and as long as someone will let me practice journalism of the sort that I want to practice, then I don’t expect to retire. I would much rather wear out than rust out.”
Rather believes he’s “a reporter who got lucky, very lucky” to have a long career, which began in 1953 with a part-time stint at a Huntsville, Texas radio station. He later wrote for the Houston Chronicle and worked at Houston’s KTRK-TV before joining CBS News in 1962.
He calls covering the JFK assassination “the four dark days in Dallas. An absolute sledgehammer to the heart.”
Reporting on the Civil Rights movement “changed me as a person, and it changed me as a pro.”
Going to Vietnam on assignment: “No one could go into that hell hole and come out the same person. And I didn’t.”
And Watergate, he reflects, was “when I had it all on the line, professionally.”
Professionally speaking, he says, he likes where he is now — HDNet has “been wonderful for me” — but he is also dealing with the aftermath of leaving CBS News in 2005. Filing his lawsuit against the network in September “clearly was not an easy decision,” Rather says. “I wondered how it would feel after I made the decision, and ever since…I have felt that it was the right thing to do.” (A CBS spokesperson has said that “the lawsuit is without merit.”)
“This is going to be a long, tough road, and the odds are against me…but there’s a principle involved,” Rather says, referring to what he calls “the corporatization, the politicization, and the Hollywood-ization of the news.”
There is, though, someone he feels is good for news: his boss, HDNet owner Mark Cuban. Cuban has given him “complete, total, absolute editorial and creative control of the program.”
So, all in all, how would Dan Rather summarize his life right now? “As a professional,” he replied, “I hope the epitaph will read, ‘He had a passion for covering news, and he gave it everything he had.'”