He was once one of the most trusted names in nightly news, and now Dan Rather is set to make a comeback. Even as the public’s trust of the media is flagging, Rather believes he still has a voice people will trust.
Rather’s new program, “The News With Dan Rather,” is set to be a 30-minute show sharing a network with the left-of-center talkers, The Young Turks. Rather admitted that, at first, he wasn’t really familiar with TYT or their leader, Cenk Uygur. But, he says, the two hit it off well when they did meet. After their initial conversation, Uygur offered Rather a show on his network, and Rather was ready and willing to take it on. The program is billed as an “untraditional evening newscast,” with “original reporting” as well as stories Rather wants to shine attention on. Rather told the media he hopes the format will “allow me to focus on substance…”
Unlike the slickly produced programs of today, even many on YouTube, Rather will shoot the program in his office in a stripped-down production that will focus more on substance than style. Rather says he’s not deterred by the step down in programming budget and staff.
“I am not the smartest guy around and don’t know everything, but I have been blessed as a reporter and have seen a few things. And now I have moved to a different place. I want to contribute if I can…”
That’s an interesting perspective from a man for whom millions carried a deep and abiding trust. Rather is widely considered one of the last great news anchors, one of a breed that used to deliver the news rather than just pontificate on it. So, what has brought the 86-year-old out of retirement? In a word: Trump. Rather says:
“I feel strongly that when you have a president who is continually, relentlessly damning the press, individuals by name, individual institutions and calling the press the enemy of the people — listen, this has to be resisted… This is a time when everybody needs to be counted. I don’t want to be preachy about it, but we have a real responsibility, those of us in journalism and those of us who have experience in journalism, to do what we can…”
So, clearly, Rather believes he has a mandate. But will he have an audience? That’s the real question here. It’s difficult to think he won’t engage some interest. As a counterpoint to President Trump, he’s on the right network … but will his traditional style of substance and delivery work in a culture that is even more slanted than the modern nightly news? Consumers of TYT want their news served up decidedly left, and they may not know what to make of the aged journalist and his gruff, “this is how it really is” delivery.
But, then again, they may love him. We’ll know very soon.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.