Dan Rather calling on President Obama to save “the free press” is irony at its delicious best:
“A truly free and independent press is the red, beating heart of democracy and freedom. This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about,” said Rather.
“The free press, as established by the First Amendment to the Constitution, ought to operate as a public trust, not solely as a money-making endeavor,” Rather argued, “and it’s time the government made an effort to ensure the survival of the free press. If not the government, he suggested, then an organization like the Carnegie Foundation should take it on. Without action, he predicted, America will lose its independent media. If we do nothing more than stand back and hope that innovation alone will solve this crisis,” he said, “then our best-trained journalists will lose their jobs.”
The MSM is tanking because it has abdicated its watchdog roll in favor of partisanship:
We've seen it reflected in nearly every poll over the last 10 years or so and here is another one that confirms the downward spiral in trust of the media. In a press release for a Sacred Heart University poll, those respondents who said they believe all or most of what the media has to tell them fell 8% since 2003. In 2003 27.4% of the poll's respondents said that they trusted all or most of what the MSM reports. In 2007 that number plummeted to just 19.6%. 23.9% said they believe little or nothing that comes out of the MSM with 55.3% saying they believe some of what the media churns out.
"The fact that an astonishing percentage of Americans see biases and partisanship in their mainstream news sources suggests an active and critical consumer of information in the U.S.," stated James Castonguay, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of SHU's Department of Media Studies & Digital Culture. "The availability of alternative viewpoints and news sources through the Internet no doubt contributes to the increased skepticism about the objectivity of profit-driven news outlets owned by large conglomerates," he continued.
The public no longer trusts the MSM to inform them and Rather played a role in this loss of trust:
Rather undertook to influence an election by promoting derisory forgeries, from a non-credible source. On September 8, 2004, Rather reported on 60 Minutes that a series of memos critical of President George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record had been discovered in the personal files of Lt. Bush's former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian.
The authenticity of these documents was quickly called into question by a small group of bloggers, initially based on their being proportionally printed and displaying other modern typographic conventions with limited availability on military typewriters of the time. This led to claims that the memos were forgeries. The accusations then spread over the following days into mainstream media outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Chicago Sun-Times.
Rather tried to use his position as a journalist to influence the outcome of the 2004 Presidential election. His actions back fired and cost him his job but his colleagues in the media missed the lesson. From a Rasmussen poll taken in August of 2008:
A full 55 percent of likely American voters think that media bias is more of a problem than campaign contributions in the presidential race, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday.
This poll follows another Rasmussen poll conducted July 19 which revealed that 57 percent of likely voters think Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has received the best treatment from the media so far, while 21 percent or respondents think Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has received the best media treatment.
What Dan Rather really wants isn’t a free press but a comfortable press. He wants to be able to vex those he sees as powerful, but only from inside an established newsroom, with a regular paycheck, a cushy retirement plan, plenty of prestige, and twice-yearly awards dinners. The only problem with that is you can’t really “afflict the comfortable” if you’re comfortable yourself.
What Rather wants is his brand of “journalism” to enjoy government subsidized status quo. He, and others like him, betrayed the public trust. That is not a problem that government largesse can fix.