"Dan" Rather, Jr. (born 1931) is an American journalist, former
news anchor for the CBS Evening News and
now managing editor and anchor of a television news magazine, Dan Rather Reports, on the cable
channel HDNet. Rather was anchor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years,
from March 9, 1981, to March 9, 2005. He also contributed to CBS' 60 Minutes. Rather was involved
in controversy about a disputed news report involving the 2004 U.S.
Presidential Election, subsequently left CBS Evening News in 2005 and left the CBS network altogether after
43 years in 2006 (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Rather
on press self-censorship to the National Coalition Against Censorship
(2008): “Therein, I
believe, lies the central challenge of this cause to defend First Amendment
rights: To make it understood from sea to shining sea, in towns big and small,
that the First Amendment is not some scoundrel’s refuge for elites real or
imagined, but a bulwark against tyranny for all Americans.
In the case of the press, the guarantee of a free press represented the
Framers’ implicit understanding that journalists had an essential role to play
in our democracy—that without the raw material of information, We the People
would not be able to govern ourselves wisely or well.
So it is not for the press but for the people that we fight for access to the
corridors of power, as the people’s surrogates. It is not for the press but for
the people that we pressure our elected representatives and our candidates for
office to answer the questions that the people might ask, if they had the
opportunity. And it is not for the press but for the people that we defend (and
call for our publishers and news owners to defend) our right to print and
broadcast the truth—straight, no chaser.
If journalists hope to enlist our fellow Americans in the defense of the
Constitutional rights that are there for all of us, we must inspire in them a
sense that we are using these rights with a sense of Constitutional purpose.
That is not to say that they are in any sense a privilege, rather than
inalienable rights; it is to say that these rights will be taken seriously—and
we will be taken seriously—only to the degree that we put them in practice
towards serious ends.
And we might recognize that, when we work towards trivial ends, we undermine
our case and we play a hand in eroding our hard-won freedoms.
I will say, in closing, that one of the most pernicious ways in which we do
this is through self-censorship, which may be the worst censorship of all. We
have seen too much self-censorship in the news in recent years, and as I say
this please know that I do not except myself from this criticism.
As Mark Twain once said, “We write frankly and freely but then we ‘modify’
before we print.” Why do we modify the free and frank expression of
journalistic truth? We do it out of fear: Fear for our jobs. Fear that we’ll
catch hell for it. Fear that someone will seek to hang a sign around our neck
that says, in essence, “Unpatriotic.”
We modify with euphemisms such as “collateral damage” or “less than truthful
statements.” We modify with passive-voice constructions such as “mistakes were
made.” We modify with false equivalencies that provide for bad behavior the
ready-made excuse that “everybody’s doing it.” And sometimes we modify with an
eraser—simply removing offending and inconvenient truths from our reporting.” .
. Dan Rather's
remarks at NCAC's Annual Celebration of Free Speech and Its Defendents,
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), 29 October 2008: http://ncac.org/Dan-Rathers-Remarks-at-the-Annual-Celebration