Dan Rather, at 92, on a life in news

CBS Sunday Morning
28 Apr 202408:27


TLDRThe transcript captures a reflective conversation with legendary CBS News anchor Dan Rather, revisiting his illustrious career and his departure from the network. It highlights his tenure as a front-line journalist for nearly a quarter-century, witnessing significant historical events such as the Berlin Wall, the Civil Rights movement, and the Vietnam War. The interview touches on Rather's passion for journalism, his dedication to uncovering stories that matter, and the controversy surrounding his report on George W. Bush's military service. Despite the setback, Rather's commitment to real news and his transition to engaging with a younger audience on social media are emphasized. The summary also notes his enduring legacy and the importance he places on the enduring questions of identity and contribution, rather than professional accolades.


  • ūüďú **Dan Rather's Longevity in Journalism**: Dan Rather was a prominent figure at CBS News for almost a quarter of a century, witnessing and reporting on significant historical events.
  • ūüĆé **Global Reporting**: Throughout his career, Rather reported from around the world, including locations like Dharamshala, India, Port au Prince, Haiti, and the line between Israel and the occupied West Bank.
  • ūüŹÜ **Recognition and Legacy**: Dan Rather is acknowledged as one of the great reporters of his time, with his name and identity closely tied to CBS News.
  • ūüďį **Controversial Reporting**: A report by Rather on George W. Bush's service record in the Texas Air National Guard led to controversy when the documents could not be authenticated, causing a significant low point in his career.
  • ūüĒć **Commitment to Truth**: Rather emphasizes the importance of reporting news that someone in power may not want the public to know, which he believes defines real news.
  • ūüö® **The Impact of 9/11**: Rather's raw emotion following the 9/11 attacks reflected the collective feelings of the nation, demonstrating his empathetic approach to journalism.
  • ūüďą **Evolution of Journalism**: Rather believes that current journalists are better educated and more knowledgeable about the world, and they are striving to do the right thing.
  • ūüďö **Lifelong Learning**: Even after leaving the anchor desk, Rather continued to report, write books, and engage with a new, younger audience on social media, showing his commitment to staying relevant and informed.
  • ūüéď **Education and Knowledge**: He rates today's journalists as being more educated and knowledgeable than those from previous generations, highlighting the importance of continuous learning in the field.
  • ūüó£ÔłŹ **The Power of Questions**: Rather stresses the importance of follow-up questions in journalism, which often reveal more information than the initial query.
  • ūüĆ≥ **Roots and Endurance**: The 'Treaty Tree' in Austin, Texas, where Rather often reflects, symbolizes his own career in journalism‚ÄĒdeeply rooted, enduring, and strong.
  • ‚úćÔłŹ **Legacy and Personal Reflection**: Rather suggests that one's legacy is not about professional achievements but rather about personal contributions and the impact one has made on others.

Q & A

  • How long was Dan Rather at the forefront of CBS News?

    -Dan Rather was at the forefront of CBS News for almost a quarter century.

  • What significant event in media did Dan Rather report on during his tenure at CBS?

    -Dan Rather reported on various significant events, including the war against Terror in Afghanistan and the Civil Rights movement.

  • Why did Dan Rather leave CBS News in 2006?

    -Dan Rather left CBS News in 2006 after a report he filed for 60 Minutes II, questioning George W Bush's service record in the Texas Air National Guard, which was based on documents that could not be authenticated.

  • What was the lowest point in Dan Rather's career?

    -The lowest point in Dan Rather's career was when the documents for a report on President George W. Bush's military service could not be authenticated, leading to a public apology.

  • How did Dan Rather feel about his departure from CBS?

    -Dan Rather's departure from CBS still stings, as he gave CBS News everything he had and felt that the incident with the unauthenticated documents was a mistake.

  • What is Dan Rather's view on the current state of journalism?

    -Dan Rather believes that the people practicing journalism today are better educated, more knowledgeable, and are doing their best to do the right thing.

  • What was the impact of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Dan Rather?

    -The assassination of John F. Kennedy had a profound impact on Dan Rather, who did not take time to grieve due to his professional responsibilities.

  • How did Dan Rather's reporting on the Vietnam War influence public perception?

    -Dan Rather's reporting on the Vietnam War helped to convey the realities of soldiers' experiences, emphasizing their fears of letting down their comrades rather than the fear of death itself.

  • What is the significance of the 'Treaty Tree' to Dan Rather?

    -The 'Treaty Tree' near Dan Rather's home in Austin, Texas, symbolizes endurance, strength, and deep roots, qualities that Rather sees in himself and values in his career.

  • How did Dan Rather continue his career after leaving the anchor desk at CBS?

    -After leaving the anchor desk at CBS, Dan Rather continued to report from around the world for various news broadcasts, authored books, and became a sought-after voice on presidential politics, finding a new younger audience on social media.

  • What is Dan Rather's perspective on his legacy?

    -Dan Rather believes that the closest one can come to legacy is not to focus on one's work, but rather on the important questions of who one is, why one is here, and what one can contribute as a person.



ūüďį Dan Rather's CBS Legacy and Departure

The first paragraph discusses the career of Dan Rather, a prominent figure at CBS News for decades. It highlights his tenure as a TV anchorman, his role in reporting significant historical events such as the Berlin Wall, and his dedication to journalism. The paragraph also touches on Rather's departure from CBS in 2006, following a controversial report on George W. Bush's military service. It reflects on the impact of this incident on his career and his continued passion for journalism, even after leaving the network.


ūüéôÔłŹ The Evolution and Impact of Dan Rather's Journalism

The second paragraph delves into Dan Rather's approach to journalism, contrasting his style with that of his predecessor, Walter Cronkite. It recounts significant moments in his career, including his coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Civil Rights movement. The paragraph also addresses the emotional aspect of reporting, as seen in Rather's response to 9/11. It concludes with a reflection on Rather's legacy, his enduring commitment to journalism, and his philosophical outlook on life and his career.



ūüí°Dan Rather

Dan Rather is a prominent figure in the video, known for his long career as a news anchor at CBS News. He is depicted as a symbol of traditional journalism and is associated with significant historical events and periods, such as the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. His departure from CBS is also a focal point, highlighting the challenges and pressures faced by journalists.

ūüí°CBS News

CBS News is a major news organization where Dan Rather worked for 44 years, holding various positions including bureau chief, war correspondent, and White House correspondent. It represents the traditional media platform that Rather used to deliver news to millions of viewers and is central to the narrative of his career and the evolution of news reporting.


Journalism is the profession and process of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. In the video, it is presented as a noble pursuit that requires courage, curiosity, and dedication. It is also discussed in the context of change, with Rather reflecting on the current state of journalism and the challenges it faces.

ūüí°60 Minutes II

60 Minutes II was a news magazine show on CBS where Dan Rather reported a controversial story questioning George W. Bush's service record in the Texas Air National Guard. The segment is a pivotal moment in the video as it led to significant repercussions for Rather's career, illustrating the risks and accountability inherent in journalism.

ūüí°George W. Bush

George W. Bush is mentioned in the context of a report by Dan Rather on 60 Minutes II that questioned his military service. This report and the subsequent fallout serve as a key event in the narrative, demonstrating the high-stakes nature of political journalism and the impact of reporting on public figures.

ūüí°Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement is a significant period in American history that Rather covered as a reporter. It is used in the video to highlight Rather's commitment to covering important social issues and his role in providing historical context to viewers, emphasizing the importance of journalism in documenting social change.

ūüí°Vietnam War

The Vietnam War is a historical event that is discussed in the video to illustrate the depth of Rather's reporting experience. His coverage of the war showcases his role as a war correspondent and the personal and professional challenges he faced in reporting from conflict zones.


Integration refers to the process of bringing together different racial groups within society. In the video, Rather's coverage of those opposing integration within the church is mentioned, reflecting his commitment to reporting on divisive social issues and the role of journalism in promoting understanding and dialogue.

ūüí°Social Media

Social media is a modern platform for communication and the dissemination of news. The video discusses how Rather has adapted to this new medium, reaching a younger audience and engaging with current events. It represents the evolution of journalism and the need for reporters to stay relevant in a digital age.


Legacy is the lasting impact or imprint left by an individual. In the context of the video, Rather's legacy as a journalist is explored, with a focus on his dedication, the challenges he faced, and the lessons he learned. It is portrayed as being more about personal contribution and integrity than professional accolades.

ūüí°Truth in Journalism

Truth in journalism is the core principle of accurately reporting facts without bias. The video emphasizes the importance of this principle through Rather's experiences, particularly when discussing the 60 Minutes II report. It underscores the ethical responsibilities of journalists and the consequences of failing to uphold these standards.


Dan Rather spent almost a quarter century as a lead anchor at CBS News, becoming one of the most recognized figures in American journalism.

Rather was part of the 'big three' TV anchormen watched by 50 million people a night during his time at CBS.

He held nearly every major post a network reporter could, including bureau chief, war correspondent, and White House correspondent.

In 2004, Rather filed a controversial 60 Minutes II report questioning George W. Bush's service record in the Texas Air National Guard. The report's documents could not be authenticated, leading to a major controversy.

Rather's departure from CBS in 2006, over a year after stepping down from the anchor desk, was a painful moment for him and the news division.

Rather has continued to report from around the world for various news outlets and found a new, younger audience on social media.

He has authored books and become a sought-after voice on presidential politics, staying engaged with current events.

Rather believes the journalists practicing today are better educated, more knowledgeable, and trying to do the right thing despite challenges.

He emphasizes the importance of real news - stories that someone in power doesn't want the public to know.

Rather recounts his experience covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Civil Rights movement.

His coverage of the Vietnam War humanized soldiers, emphasizing their fears and camaraderie.

Rather's emotional reporting after 9/11 reflected the collective feelings of the nation during that tragic time.

In his later years, Rather has found peace under the 'treaty tree' near his home in Austin, Texas, a place that symbolizes endurance and deep roots.

Rather's legacy is defined not by his professional achievements, but by his enduring commitment to truth, context, and the important questions he raised as a reporter.

Throughout his 44-year career at CBS, Rather was known for his hard work, dedication, and relentless pursuit of the story.

His approach to journalism was characterized by intense curiosity, thoughtful skepticism, and a desire to wear out his shoe leather chasing headlines.

Rather's advice for aspiring journalists is to focus on the follow-up questions, which are often more important than the initial query.



what a place what a time what a story it's  Friday morning here and this is Tiananmen  


square for decades he was front and center at CBS  News all these years later we thought it was time  


for a look back Lee Cowan traveled to Texas for  a conversation with Dan Rather and to each of  


you courage it's been almost 20 years for the CBS  Evening News Dan Rather reporting since Dan Rather  


good night signed off from the anchor desk here at  CBS News of the so-called big three TV anchormen  


back in the day watched by some 50 million  people a night rather was there the longest  


almost a quarter Century the hurricane has been  hitting full force the operative board tonight  


for the war against Terror here in Afghanistan  is more when he blinked I climbed up the Berlin  


Wall the cbs eye did too CBS News in his 44 years  with CBS he held every post- a network reporter  


could bureau chief War correspondent 10 years ago  there were no segregationist candidates for places  


in British Parliament foreign correspondent  White House correspondent are you running for


something No Mr President are you but in 2006 a  little more than a year after he stepped down from  


the the anchor desk Dan Rather left CBS itself  Dan Rather was one of the great reporters of his  


time good luck Dan all the best Dan Rather CBS  News became sort of a whole part of my name part  


of my identity and you have interviewed how many  presidents I'd have to count everyone instrument  


gosh this is the first time he's appeared on  this network since without apology or explanation  


I missed CBS I've missed it since the day I left  there even at 92 how and why he left still stings  


in the heart of every reporter worthy of the  namely there's a message that News Real News is  


what somebody somewhere particularly somebody  in power doesn't want you to know that's news  


and that's what got him into trouble NBC News and  death tonight the black eye at CBS News Today CBS  


news anchor Dan Rather and the News division  in 2004 rather filed a report for 60 Minutes II  


that questioned George W Bush's service record in  the Texas Air National Guard tonight we have new  


documents and new information on the president's  military service but the documents on which rather  


and his producer based their reporting could not  be later authenticated it was a mistake CBS News  


deeply regrets it also I want to say personally  and directly I'm sorry is that the lowest point  


for you you think of course it was the lowest  point I gave CBS News everything I had they  


had smarter better more talented people but they  didn't have anybody who worked any harder than I  


did cbs's Lee Cowan tells us one firehouse within  sight of ground zero has had its heart cut out I'd  


only been at CBS a few years by then during  which Dan Rather had kindly and unexpectedly  


taken me under his wing he made me feel welcome  you told me once that it's not the question but  


it's the followup but that's yes what often is  more important I hope you will not be following  


up today minus the suspenders and his cigars  rather remains just as I remember him an intently  


curious I'll bring you back in about 10 thanks  thoughtful well-read skeptic who wants nothing  


more than to wear out his shoe leather chasing the  next headline what made you want to be a reporter  


in the first place you know I've never quite  known the answer to that question all I know  


is it's the only thing I ever wanted to be was a  reporter and I get up every morning and soon as  


my feet hit the ground I say where's the story you  still do that huh I do and it doesn't matter how  


big or small the audience is no good evening from  Dharamshala India Port au Prince Haiti Welcome to  


Alaska after CBS rather continued to report from  all over the world for several news broadcasts  


of his own we come to you tonight from the line  between Israel and the occupied West Bank he wrote  


books and thank you so much that's exactly why I  wanted to talk to you became a sought-after voice  


on presidential politics and found a new younger  audience on social media you either get engaged  


and you get engaged on the new terms or you're out  of the game I want to stay in the game how would  


you rate where we are today in journalism let  the record show that I paused the people who are  


practicing journalism today are so much better  than those of us who came up at another time  


they're better educated they're more knowledgeable  about the world they want to do the right thing  


they're doing the best they can take your hands  off on me unless you intend to arrest me don't  


don't push me in his time he knew his best wasn't  to try to be his predecessor Walter Cronkite  


instead he tried to be the best Dan Rather he  could be you can see which came with price tags  


some professional talk to the man many of them  personal we had the assassination on Friday the  


interrogation of the assassin on Saturday in 1963  while the nation mourned the assassination of John  


F Kennedy in Dallas rather didn't have that luxury  I mean you didn't have any time to grieve yourself  


I didn't take time to grieve because I said to  myself it's my professional responsibility and I  


remember calling my wife Jean who was in Houston  at the time of the assassination but she she had  


cautioned me then sooner or later you have to make  room for your own emotions and I love my church  


that's why I'm trying to show my church where  they are in grave error if they accept integration  


rather also led cbs's coverage of the Civil Rights  movement those were the days he thought might  


Define him as a reporter but then came Vietnam no  Soldier worthy of the name will leave even a dead  


comrade you know there's a great misunderstanding  of what soldiers sailors Marines and airmen are  


afraid of in war they are afraid of dying of  course they are but that's not what they're most  


afraid of fighting men and women are most afraid  of letting down the guy to their left or the woman  


to their right race was rarely even thought of  the saying among the truths was same mud same


blood man that's the way it was handled being a  


hard charging reporter doesn't mean  being a heartless one after 911  


rather's raw emotion reflected what we were all  feeling thine Alabaster City's gleam undimmed by  


human tears we can never say that s again that was  all long ago these days you'll find him under the  


shade of a stately old oak not far from his home  in Austin Texas well it's called the treaty tree  


Lee it's outlasted Spanish conquests the Civil War  even urban sprawl and and in its Tangled branches  


Dan Rather sees himself it couldn't survive for  these 600 years without having very deep roots  


there's a lot comparable to you it's endurance  strength and has been in Texas for a long time  


yeah I wish that were true he spent his career  trying to put the world in context for others  


Penning the first draft of history in his  reporter's notebook Dan Rather knows more  


than anyone that the final draft though is up to  others and that's how it should be the closest  


you can do about Legacy is not think about your  work think about what you did as a person those  


important questions of who am I why am I here what  can I contribute those are the important questions  


not how well one did or didn't do as anchor  and managing editor of the CBS Evening News