Notes from Evan Smith
"What a difference a year makes. So much has happened since Dan Rather's very public fall from journalistic grace that it's hard to believe it was only last fall, in the thick of the 2004 presidential campaign, that the longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News revealed the existence of documents allegedly shedding light on George W. Bush's national guard service, or lack thereof. Doubters in the blogosphere and the mainstream media immediately poked holes in the story, forcing Rather to acknowledge -- eventually -- that the authenticity of the documents could not be verified. His departure from the anchor chair came earlier than planned, only a few months later, on March 9, 2005. But those who believe the 73-year-old's epitaph should read simply, "He screwed up" conveniently ignore or willfully disregard his long career as a first-rate newsman, which continues to this day with his contributions to other CBS news programs.
Born in Houston, Rather grew up wanting to be a reporter for one of the city's dailies. After graduating from Sam Houston State University in Hunstville, he landed a series of broadcast jobs back in Houston, most notably at KHOU, where his coverage of Hurricane Carla is legendary -- and worth remembering today, in a year of hurricanes, as a standard by which all such coverage is judged.
In the early sixities is was on to CBS, where his reporting on the Kennedy assassination and Vietnam was also legend. In 1981 he replaced fellow Texan Walter Cronkite as anchor of the evening news, and there he remained until a few months ago -- dispatching his responsibilities faithfully, and with great skill, and with his honed-on-the-range folksiness -- even in the face of critics who lampooned his peccadilloes and oddities, and who, more seriously, accused him of liberal bias.
Unlike his anchors in arms Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, Rather was consistently a right-wing whipping boy, but he never gave ground and still doesn't, as you're about to find out.." - Evan Smith, Texas Monthly Talks, Broadcast 10.6.06