“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.” – Walter Cronkite, CBS anchor from 1962-1981

When asked what sports historians would take away from his record (e.g., five home runs) performance in the 1977 World Series, Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson paused and humbly proclaimed: “The magnitude of me.”

What about the “magnitude” of former CBS anchor Dan Rather?

The question is particularly relevant today as former CBS anchor Dan Rather is attempting a relevancy comeback at 86-years-old.

With his new book, “What Unites Us, Reflections on Patriotism,” Rather appears to be trying to escape the embarrassing details of his bitter 2005 termination … err resignation.

More to Almost DailyBrett’s point: Should Rather be seen as The Father of Affirmational Journalism?

Affirmational Journalism? Do these two words constitute an oxymoron?

Affirmational Journalism (e.g., Rather) is the mirror opposite of Informational Journalism (e.g., Cronkite).

Under the tenets of Informational Journalism, a news outlet will sift through the relevant facts and information – including both sides of every story — and deduce a logical conclusion for readers or viewers to decide.

Is there any wonder that Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America in 1972?

The esteem for American Journalism peaked in 1976 at 72 percent (e.g., Gallup survey), shortly after Woodward and Bernstein’s Pulitzer Prize reporting and the demise of the Nixon administration. The same poll revealed that public trust for the media plummeted for four decades to 32 percent in 2016.

What happened to the days when the vital First Amendment mission of the media was to inform and enlighten?

Enter Rather as the successor to Cronkite in the CBS anchor chair in 1981. Shortly thereafter, the seeds of today’s Affirmational Journalism were planted.

Certainly, there were outlets in 1972 and beyond that editorially represented the left (e.g., New York Times) and the right (e.g., Wall Street Journal), but the news pages of these publications were essentially straight.

Rather: Keynoting the GOP National Convention?

“(Rather) stepped on his own dick.” – Ronald Reagan, 1988

Two celebrated incidents involving Republican presidents (not Democratic) clearly demonstrated how Rather’s aim was to “affirm” preset narratives, not to totally “inform:”

  1. His rudeness against then Vice President George H.W. Bush in a cataclysmic 1988 live interview, which included Bush reminding the world that Rather stormed off his set one year before, when a U.S. Open tennis match ran too long.
  2. Rather’s ill-fated 2004 60 Minutes piece (e.g., Rathergate), confusing the fonts of an IBM Selectric with those offered by Microsoft. The forged 1972 document reportedly proved that President George W. Bush received special treatment as a member of the National Guard. Alas for Rather, the letter was written with a Microsoft font.

Microsoft was not founded until 1975 – three years later. Oops.

Dan Rather was exposed for his eagerness and glee to accept any “fact” that fit a preordained narrative about George W. Bush and his National Guard service. More importantly, he and his producer, Mary Mapes, were terminated at CBS for practicing Affirmational Journalism, which sought out tidbits (e.g., the forged letter) that affirmed and fit the story and excluding those (e.g., Microsoft font) that did not.

Rather’s mission was to “affirm” through selective reporting the predisposed reigning political philosophy of elites residing east of the Hudson and within the confines of the Beltway:

Democrat John Kerry was good; Republican George W. Bush needed to be excused from office.

Today, the list of affirmational elite media on the left is long: New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC. The list of affirmational media on the right is shorter: Fox News.

Whether these major media outlets reside on the left or the right, their mission is to affirm, sustain and enhance entrenched narratives that advance a chosen political philosophy.

Is Dan Rather solely responsible for this movement toward affirming, whether through interpretation or presenting, preordained narratives? No. There are others.

Is he the poster child for affirmational journalism and with it a record 32 percent low in national esteem for the media? Almost DailyBrett is making that assertion.

Affirmational Journalism Schools?

As a college assistant professor in a school of communication, the author of Almost DailyBrett worries that future journalists will be trained to seek facts and figures that fit a preconceived narrative, and ignore those inconvenient points that potentially contradict the “story.”

Are the ends of supporting an adopted political philosophy more important than the means of not presenting both sides of a story? If that is indeed the case and we are no longer informing the public about the positions of both sides, can we call this behavior Journalism?

There are some of us who yearn for the better days of a free-and-fair media.  The Fourth Estate can potentially come back; just the same way Rather is trying to revive his tarnished reputation.

Can the media return to the days of Informational Journalism? Or is Affirmational Journalism here to stay, contributing to and hardening our divided society for years to come?

Maybe if the media moves to adopt the model of Walter Cronkite — not Dan Rather — we will all be better off as an American society.

We can only hope.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2017/12/12/this-has-to-be-unacceptable-dan-rather-on-media-attacks-and-politics-in-america-under-trump/?utm_term=.6cdffc95176a&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=82268&page=3

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/has-the-media-reached-the-point-that-it-can-never-cover-trump-fairly/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/from-affirming-back-to-informing/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Walter-Cronkite

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Mapes