Rather’s serious charges

One good thing about the charges Dan Rather is making that government and corporations unduly influence the U.S. media is that they’ll be put to the test, in his law suit against CBS for wrongful dismissal. That’s critical because, as with many conspiracy theories, Rather’s allegations are compelling. And — as with all conspiracy theories — there should be a high standard of proof. Can Rather prove his charges?

From today’s CBC story:

Journalist Dan Rather, who recently filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS for wrongful dismissal, says the U.S. government and large corporations have undue influence over newsrooms.

“Democracy cannot survive, much less thrive, with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in the news,” Rather said on CNN’s Larry King Live on Thursday night.  

Some context from the New York Times

And here’s Mary Mapes coming to Rather’s defence, on the Huffington Post site, charging that “journalism has become corporatized, trivialized and castrated:”

It has been three years since we aired our much-maligned story on President Bush’s National Guard service and reaped a whirlwind of right-wing outrage and talk radio retaliation. That part of the assault on our story was not unexpected. In September 2004, anyone who had the audacity to even ask impertinent questions about the president was certain to be figuratively kicked in the head by the usual suspects.

What was different in our case was the brand new and bruising power of the conservative blogosphere, particularly the extremists among them. They formed a tightly knit community of keyboard assault artists who saw themselves as avenging angels of the right, determined to root out and decimate anything they believed to be disruptive to their worldview.

To them, the fact that the president wimped out on his National Guard duty during the Vietnam War — and then covered it up — was no big deal. Our having the temerity to say it on national TV was unforgivable and we had to be destroyed. They organized, with the help of longtime well-connected Republican activists, and began their assault.

     (Hat tip to Romenesko)