Monday, April 21, 2008

Me and Dan Rather

Dan Rather came to Rowan University on April 11, 2008 as part of the school's 41st celebration of the Hollybush Summit. That was the event in 1967 where President Lyndon Johnson met face-to-face with Soviet Premier Kosygin. It was a pretty big deal during that time (Cold War) for those two to sit down together.
Rowan - then known as Glassboro State - was selected as a meeting site because it was halfway between NYC and DC. The school had just a few days to get ready and was quickly thrust into the spotlight.
As part of the anniversary of the Summit, former CBS anchor Dan Rather was brought in to moderate a panel on nuclear proliferation. He also took the time to teach a class for our students, including some of "my kids." It was great. He was great. All Dan Rather haters can just shut up.
I heard him speak at the IRE convention in Denver in 2005 and he was great then, too. I found him to be smart, well-spoken and really quite humble. He gave my kids good advice. Here are some of my notes:
The ability to write is the most important skill for a journalist

"You have to read books."

A journalist is an honest broker of information for the people at home.

"If I'd been a better speller I might have stayed in newspapers."

Be accurate. Be fair.

News is what someone somehere doesn't want you to know. All the rest is advertising.
"Look it up in the dictionary."

Journalists don't need to know everything, they just need who to ask or where to look it up.

(He is speaking entirely without notes.)

In terms of ethics, listen to the inner voice that says "you are going too far."
After the panel, I weasled my way into a reception and got to chat up Dan one-on-one. In the pictures, I alternately look like I am pushing him or about to hug him. Hee.