Speaking in the Headlines and Biographies lecture series at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Dan Rather says today's journalists have an "urge to be so polite, this mandate not to offend anyone - anywhere."
Journalists afraid to bash President Bush? That's unlikely. Of course, the president's low approval ratings have more to do with conservatives hating Bush than liberals, and Rather could not possibly understand criticisms of Bush that did not originate from left-wing MSM initiatives.
Reports Canadian Press:
The veteran U.S. television journalist lamented a trend in today's news that sees reporters rely on euphemisms and tact as though they were conducting international diplomacy instead of telling people exactly what is happening in places like Washington or Ottawa.
"I don't know where this urge to be so polite, this mandate not to offend anyone - anywhere, anytime - came from, but in a journalistic sense, I wish it would go away," he said.
Rather, the TV newsman who so famously indulged in on-air verbal jousts with former U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and George Bush, noted that outright lies are painted as mis-statements, and statements from official spokespersons are passed on without translation into plain English.
"I say that particularly in this new millennium, that the American press - and I include myself in this - in some ways needs a spine transplant. It's going out of fashion to have the kind of spine that gets up and asks the tough question."
Rather does not like what is being done with blogs and the internet.
Rather also admitted to a sense of unease over all the new technologies that are emerging for the news media, from blogs to podcasts.
The many new platforms for delivering news, he said, are not expanding the flow of information.
"For the most part what we are seeing, at least in the States, is the same news and the same people delivering the news, in more places at more times.
"They are no longer by necessity out there fishing for stories as much as they once were."...
In an age when networks are closing foreign bureaus and cutting the length of news stories, he said, the perspective and knowledge provided by correspondents are more important than ever.
Instead, he said, we get headline services with an overlay of entertainment.
"If we, as a society, plan to reap the benefits of all of this marvellous new technology in any meaningful way, the old traditional news values are still the best way."