SXSW: Dan Rather? Yes, Dan Rather.

The esteemed Mr Rather spoke to us today about history, news, his transition to HDNet, where he gets MacNeil-Lehrer-esque latitude to report what he wants, how he wants.

While I love HDNet, I haven’t seen Dan’s show yet, so I can’t comment on it. I need to setup the Tivo with it ASAP.

It is interesting to see the first reputable news person (no, Amanda Congdon does not count as legitimate news) make the leap to an entirely new technology-driven medium. Some might suggest that Adam Curry and podcast was similar. I might smack them. Dan wanted editorial control, and after the career he’s had, he deserves it. But HDNet would really kick ass if they pumped to content out to the web as well, and added more content and background on stories. Then Dan could really sink his teeth into a story.

Dan seems like a nice guy. A dim, but nice guy. And if you google him you’ll find some very silly things he’s said over the years about his hair, how good he wants to look, and some generally inappropriate things that he didn’t know would get recorded for prosperity.

The session was, um, unfortunate. It was great to see Dan. And to hear him describe the way things used to work. I was inspired by his Texan “We the people” comments (about how we own government information, we elected these people, the information and the elected officials are accountable to us) but due to some sound glitches (or Dan’s desire to not talk about actual events) he didn’t get to answer the historical questions, like when he was dismissed by Tricky Dick, or about the recent Scooter Libby trial.

He’s a good guy. He was slugged in Chicago. He’s tough, he wore cowboy boots, and I’d love to have drinks with him. But he’s also a bit medium. A bit brown. But he’s not supposed to be a hero. He’s supposed to be a watchdog.

I didn’t get a chance to ask him my question: “If you, Dan Rather, were at the beginning of your career, what would you do in the current political and journalistic atmosphere, to extract truth and to highlight lies within the current White House?”

He told us that Journalism needs a spine transplant. He’s right. I just wonder why he isn’t showing us his.

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