Robert Redford and the ‘Truth’ About Dan Rather


While Dan Rather is probably one of the most influential journalists in recent history, I have a hard time putting him in my list of my all time greats. In fact, to me, he’s not near the top of the list at all.

Maybe it all started when Walter Cronkite clearly didn’t endorse Dan. Not embracing Connie Chung didn’t help either. Although being an inspiration for the R.E.M. song “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is certainly points in his favor.

It was Bernard Goldberg, one of my favorite journalists in the world, who opened my eyes in his book, Bias: An CBS Insider’s Look at how the media distort the news. There you saw a new side of Dan – a dangerous side. An arrogant, paranoid side. A side that should not be the most important journalistic voice of a network.

But in reality, it was his role in the “Memogate” scandal that turned me forever sour. Before this incident, it was all innuendo and hearsay. But the Memogate scandal was real, and it was extremely disappointing to see an American icon at the forefront due to just what Bernard Goldberg accused him of – having a political agenda. What he knew, what he didn’t know – well, we don’t know. But verification is key. Two sources are needed. Robert Redford, in his interview below, knows this. Why shouldn’t Dan Rather know this?

Oh, he knows. But a juicy story can make us skip ahead of schedule. Redford mentioned that as well.

Which leads us to this post about journalism movies by Robert Redford aka my favorite baseball player, Roy Hobbs. Redford has made multiple journalism movies in the past and he usually does them so well. He is a tremendous actor, his first foray into the field as Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men is one of the best performances of his career.

His new movie, Truth, finally details the Memogate scandal. I have yet to see it, but I look forward to doing so. In this blog post by Adweek, the site discusses whether each movie he made had a positive or negative influence on the field of journalism. I disagree with their declaration about Truth, because in my eyes, it doesn’t give the industry a black eye to discuss when an icon made a terrible mistake. Don’t hide from it. Instead, accept that it happened and realize that it is unacceptable to happen again.

His last few movies about journalism haven’t done well. But never count the Sundance Kid out.

Are Robert Redford’s Movies About the Media Good for Journalism?

Immersion Journalism

The moment you write the word “I” in your story, your relationship with your reader changes. Because now you are a character just like everyone else. Your observations have to become even more prevalent. Your opinions now have to be known.

You have to ask yourself – is my involvement important enough to be in this story? Am I active enough for the reader to care about me?


I also use the following examples for my students to understand the role of the narrator while reporting on scene. The first is by Martha Gellhorn, one of the greatest female journalists of all time (any woman who can wrap Ernest Hemingway around her finger is highly desirable in my book). She was one of the first American reporters at Dachau, filling in the rest of the world about the realities of Nazi concentration camps. Her advantage is her brutal honest. I’m glad she didn’t mask her anger. That’s not the point of a first person piece.

Her reporting for Collier’s in 1945: Dachau: Experimental Murder

killer eliteI also show my students a modern take on war, where the baffling management of war is scrutinized. The American invasion of Iraq was chronicled for nearly two months by Evan Wright of Rolling Stone. His story proved that drawing game plans in the mud during a paint ball game may not be so far off from some of the U.S. military strategists. Fortunately, the raw reality of our Recon Marines makes this one of the most appealing war stories you will ever read. Wright also displays an honesty – because he tells us that what the rest of the Marines are telling him is absolutely true – war is exhilarating. And comical. Students could not believe what these men were discussing while facing death, but that is what makes this story all the more enjoyable (and frightening.)

The Killer Elite by Evan Wright For Rolling Stone

Check out the HBO miniseries based on the story titled Generation Kill.

Control Your Selfies

"I guess your boyfriend is going to have to catch the next train."
“I guess your boyfriend is going to have to catch the next train.”

Al Roker, no one loves you more than us Seinfield fans. Oh yeah, you are in the news too. Maybe it’s the technology gap. Maybe you’re trying to be “hip.” Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to use that snazzy new phone. Whatever it is – a word to the wise journalists of the future. You take too many selfies as it is. Next time you are on assignment where there is damage and despair, leave the selfie stick at home.

Roker at the South Carolina Flood.

So None Of You Can Write Anymore

Or at least not with substance or grammatical structure, according to a Washington Post opinion piece. It bashes the Common Core structure and wants to focus more on sentence structure. A turn back to basics, they say. I can’t argue. That is a step. Trying to teach students who to write sentences with style is difficult when they are making mistakes I learned in grammar school. Maybe there is a need to have the old fashioned elderly English teacher with glasses and a ruler hovering over every sentence. There is too much writing distraction today – Americans have certainly let text style infiltrate basic writing skills.

But this is just the start. More reading, which is easier said than done. It is the best approach, in my opinion, and one that is impossible to see followed through at home unless parents are willing to put in the effort with their children.

There is also that pesky five-paragraph essay, which too may teachers and professors feel is gospel. In fact, they have lost the whole point of what that structure was supposed to represent, and is not taught properly in most cases, in my opinion. Regardless, that is another blog post for another day.

Why Americans Can’t Write

Good Investigate Journalism Co$ts

So maybe you like the world of TMZ or the absurdity of political pundits being the most recognized journalists in the world. But for those “in the know,” we are fully aware that some of the most recognizable, and sadly profitable forms of journalism, is not really journalism at all.

Good journalism costs. It’s takes time. And it comes with a sacrifice. It rarely sales as many papers as a Kardashian, But it creates awareness for the socially aware and brings about real change.

Which is why many are hoping to be funded by grants and foundations which still have a conscious.  Great journalism, plus innovated websites, no longer can rely on advertising due to high circulation numbers or our bread and better of classified ads. The public is yet to realize how important it is to pay for its news. So we turn to others for help.

Here is one of the examples that the NY Times wrote about a year ago. Innovation in Journalism Goes Begging For Support