The resonant chuckles of gloating satisfaction settled over New York, scattering on the digital winds in the perverse pornography of pleasure at someone else's misfortune. Dan Rather got his. The right was right. The Bushes were vindicated. And bloggers were ascendant. What garbage. I'm especially disappointed in the self-appointed head executioner, uber-blogger Jeff Jarvis, whose anti-big media rant at the head of the fictional army of blogging sans coulottes reeks of wanna-be royalty leading his betters to the guillotine.
I like Jeff. His Weblog is generally a must-read - quite possibly the best of this genre - and lately, his campaign against the follies of this corrupt FCC administration has been heroic. But enough of the us-versus-them media class warfare. Jeff my man - you're not fighting them, you are them. Every other Jarvis post these days starts out with a variety of "I'm about to go on [fill in the old media/big media programming note here]" or "Posting this quickly from the green room..." You're a big media guy: former TV critic for TV Guide and People, creator of Entertainment Weekly, Sunday Editor of the New York Daily News, columnist on the San Francisco Examiner, and president and creative director of Advance.net, which "oversees the Internet vision and strategy for Advance Publications, Inc., includes CondéNet and Advance Internet." That's a heck of an upper bourgeois resume for a prolie revolutionary capitan on the barricades.
Which brings me to Rather. Jeff's post yesterday had that whiff of satisfaction: "Dan Rather is stepping down from his pedestal in March. Yes, bloggers deserve some credit...." For what? For getting Rather to retire from the anchor desk? Credit? Sure, bloggers had a role in working with Republican operatives to nail CBS for its pathetically shoddy reporting on the National Guard "documents" - a story that quickly overtook the actual truth, that with or without those documents, the basic story of George Bush's Vietnam-era service hasn't changed much since the last time it came up four years ago. The disgraceful CBS document-based story was merely additive, not revelatory in the slightest; it never advanced the ball. Not only were some of the documents used in the story fakes, but the news judgment of the news division in running the piece was disastrous.
CBS made a horrible mistake - just as other TV news outlets have made before, and will make again. It apologized, but the masses demand a reality-show level of "sincerity" - as if a multinational media company like Viacom is capable of emoting. It's all a pathetic little melodrama. And now for bloggers to treat Rather's retirement as the moral equivalent of the toppling of the Saddam statue in Baghdad is ludicrous. The monster has fallen.
Rather is no monster. He's a tough journalist who turned into an overpaid talking head who still wanted to keep his (very talented) reporter's hand in the game. Jarvis said last night:
Michael Wolff just said on MSNBC that Dan Rather will be remembered as a "seminal figure" in the history of network news and not for this story that he blew. He's alone in that. Everywhere I've turned on the dial tonight, the accepted view is that Rather is going because he blew it.
No Jeff, he's not alone in that. Wolff is entirely correct. Sure, Rather made enemies - but you know something, that's a good thing for a journalist, all in all. Hacks don't have enemies. They get along. Rather is no hack. He covered the largest stories of his generation personally, and single-handedly invented the widely-accepted conceipt of the big-time anchor on the scene for wars and disasters and funerals. I agree with JD's post:
Dan Rather is stepping down. This will bring glee in certain quarters of the blogosphere, but Rather was a newsman's newsman, and his fearlessness will be missed.
Rather's work will still be imitated for decades. The bloggers? Some, perhaps. But take no satisfaction: in my judgment, the house you seek to burn down is your own.