Dan Rather Pleads for White House Help for News Media

Would you believe that Dan Rather is calling on former President George W. Bush to lead a blue-ribbon effort to reform the news media? Well, obviously, the disgraced ex-CBS News anchor is not trusting the future of journalism to Bush, but in an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post, he is asking President Barack Obama "form a commission to address the perilous state of America's news media."

Rather insists he is not asking for any kind of a "government bailout" or "government control" of the media, just a high-profile discussion of the state of the media:

Why bring the President into it? Because this is the only way I could think of to generate the sort of attention this subject deserves. Academia and think tanks generate study after study, yet their findings don't reach the people who need to be reached....

The old news model is crumbling, while the Internet, for all its immense promise, is not yet ready to rise in its place - and won't be until it can provide the nuts-and-bolts reporting that most people so take for granted that it escapes their notice.

This is a crisis that, with no exaggeration, threatens our democratic republic at its core. But you won't hear about it on your evening news, unless the message can be delivered in a way that corporate media have little choice but to report - such as, say, the findings of a presidential commission.

It's inconceivable, of course, that Rather or any other media big shot would ask former George W. Bush or any other Republican to lead such an effort. If Bush had ever entertained such an idea on his own, Rather would have led the charge against it as a huge intrusion on the media's independence. But Rather is evidently comfortable with the idea of an Obama Commission on the news media - a sign just how closely journalistic liberals identify with political liberals.

The ills of journalism, as Rather sees it, are a subordination of the news product to the profit motive, and decay in the newspaper industry that threatens the nuts-and-bolts reporting that supports broadcast and much of the Internet. Last month in Aspen, Colorado, Rather suggested his solution would be to end the profit motive in journalism, as the Aspen Daily News reported:

The free press, as established by the First Amendment to the Constitution, ought to operate as a public trust, not solely as a money-making endeavor, Rather argued, and it's time the government make an effort to ensure the survival of the free press. If not the government, he suggested, then an organization like the Carnegie Foundation should take it on. Without action, he predicted, America will lose its independent media.

"If we do nothing more than stand back and hope that innovation alone will solve this crisis," he said, "then our best-trained journalists will lose their jobs."

While it's true that the corporate model has led to too much "infotainment," the public broadcasting model has created entities - PBS and NPR - that are almost wholly dominated by the Left, even though they are subsidized by conservative taxpayers.

A new media is growing up without government help or direction. Contrary to Rather's argument, there are actually more news sources available to everyday citizens, not fewer, and the news is becoming less "homogenized" thanks to the Internet. When liberals like Rather ask for the government's help, it usually means they don't like the direction that the free market is headed.

And, if he wouldn't trust a Republican president to fix the media, why should any of us trust a Democratic president with the job?

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.