By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 17, 2023)
Few journalists have had such a long and storied career as Dan Rather; long enough for several generations to claim their own reference point. At the risk of eliciting an eye-rolling “OK Boomer” from some quarters, mine is “I think we’re dealing with a bunch of thugs here, Dan!” (others of “a certain age” will recall that as Walter Cronkite’s reaction to watching his colleague getting roughed up by security on live TV while reporting from the floor of the 1968 Democratic National Convention). For Gen Xers, he’s the inspiration for R.E.M.’s “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?”, which is what a pair of assailants repeatedly asked Rather during a 1986 attack in New York. To Millennials, he’s a wry and wise nonagenarian with over 2 million Twitter followers.
As evidenced in Frank Marshall’s documentary, the secret to Rather’s longevity may be his ability to take a punch (literally or figuratively) and get right up with integrity intact. All the career highlights are checked, from Rather’s early days as a reporter in Dallas (where he came to national prominence covering the JFK assassination) to overseas reporting for CBS from the mid-to-late 60s (most notably in Vietnam), to taking over the coveted CBS Evening News anchor chair vacated by Cronkite in 1981, and onward. An inspiring warts-and-all portrait of a dogged truth-teller who is truly a national treasure.