Famed journalist Dan Rather recounts stories from decades-long career

Raga Justin

Veteran journalist Dan Rather drew laughter and a standing ovation from the audience during a lecture Wednesday night about stories from his career, which spans more than 60 years.

A large crowd gathered in the LBJ Auditorium to hear Rather speak as part of the Liz Carpenter Lecture series. Rather gave humorous accounts of pivotal moments in American politics.

One such account featured President Lyndon B. Johnson and his relationship with reporters in the midst of waning support for the Vietnam War.

“Presidents have always complained about press coverage, but, in general, every president has understood journalists,” Rather said. “Presidents generally have understood that the Fourth Estate is as central to our strength as the military and good political leadership.”

Rather compared previous presidents’ relationships with the press to the current relationship between the White House and the media.

“I do think that in present circumstances we’ve moved into a whole new era about what a president says, what’s ‘normal’ for a president to say (and) what’s acceptable for a president to say,” Rather said.

Rather addressed the recent attacks on the media among other issues facing journalism today.

“The damage being done is not only to our reputation as journalists, but much more importantly, it is a direct threat to the sustainability of our republic,” Rather said.

Rather started what proved to be an illustrious career in 1954 as a reporter for CBS and is now founder and CEO of the independent production company News and Guts.

Plan II associate director Alexandra Wettlaufer called Rather “a vital voice” and lauded his staying power.

“Dan Rather, who was in our living room for so many decades, is now a wildly popular presence on our laptops,” Wettlaufer said.

The Plan II Honors program hosts the lecture series, which typically features prominent figures in politics, current events and journalism.

Government and Plan II freshman Rylan Maksoud met Rather earlier in the day as part of a small seminar. Maksoud said Rather covered everything from the looming consolidation of the media to his experiences with President Trump.

“All throughout the conversation he was very candid (and) offered his opinions,” Maksoud said. “He really answered our questions thoroughly. He told us he’s made mistakes, but it’s up to us now to lead the way and make sure people aren’t apathetic about the world around them.”