dan rather at poynter institute

veteran broadcast journalist Dan Rather gave his unique perspective of global events based on over a half century of major network reporting

rather highlights legendary career

Last night’s Community Conversation “Dan Rather: Tough Questions, Tough Reporter” at St. Petersburg’s Poynter Institute was a first person smorgasbord of world events over the past half century, mostly framed in political perspective, that ended with an unexpected benediction on the need to teach America’s children – targeting the seventh grade – to deal with the real dangers of domestic propaganda.

The veteran broadcaster brought his look back and vision forward half-century’s worth of reporting on the American experience to an appreciative capacity audience that, based on the followup Q and A session, seemed focused on how the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would resolve.

presidents through time: ike to bush

The conversation, emceed by Poynter Institute president Dr. Karen Dunlap, included Rather’s comments on U.S.  presidents starting with Dwight Eisenhower through George W. Bush, with opinion withheld on the current occupant.

Rather also spoke extensively on the historic underpinnings of Iraq and Afghanistan, his 2004 feature over gaps in then President Bush’s National Guard enlistment that ultimately led to his public firing from CBS, the meteoric rise of tabloid journalism in America, and a surprising benediction on the need to educate America’s children on the growing danger of corporate and governmental propaganda.

Intertwined throughout the evening’s narrative were behind the scenes details of how he happened to be in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza when President Kennedy was asassinated, and an impassioned accounting of how his coverage of the civil rights movement was personally and professionally transformational.

The evening ended with a reference to the Dalai Lama as perhaps the best prepared global figure who’s not a politician and the growing dangers of what he regards as a growing and real threat from corporate and, increasingly, government sponsored propaganda. Rather described the problem posed by highly effective federal, state and local public relations campaigns as one that threaten the public’s ability to objectively interpret news, policy and events.