A renowned journalist settles scores in this investigation of how the news media has become dangerously intertwined with politics and corporate interests.
With the assistance of Diehl, Rather (The American Dream: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation, 2002 etc.) comes out swinging as he delves into the circumstances behind his firing from CBS News, where he had worked as a reporter since 1962, covering everything from Vietnam to Watergate to the conditions at Abu Ghraib. Unfortunately for Rather, his determination to air a potentially damning story about then-president George W. Bush’s spotty military record irked the higher-ups at CBS’s parent company, Viacom, leaving the feisty anchor unemployed at 75. Never one to shirk controversy, he sued CBS for breach of contract; although the suit was dismissed before it could come to trial, he has no regrets and no qualms about naming names. Indeed, this memoir reads as a muckraker’s delight, with Rather lambasting CBS management as “spineless” and “risk-averse.” He painstakingly details the cloak-and-dagger operations that Bush proponents resorted to in an attempt to hide the truth and discredit Rather’s source materials. Invoking Edward R. Murrow, Rather rails against those who would distort the news for their own gain and intentionally mislead the public. In between, he provides fair-minded portraits of the presidents he has interviewed, traces his passion for the news to his upbringing in a news-savvy family and expresses concern for the future of independent media in an industry that is increasingly kowtowing to the almighty bottom line. While Rather occasionally lapses into platitudes—a chapter on 9/11 offers little beyond well-worn observations about courage and patriotism—he always gives credit where credit is due, and his sincerity is never in doubt.
An engaging grab-bag: part folksy homage to roots, part exposé of institutional wrongdoing and part manifesto for a truly free press.