Ask No Questions Of Your Superstar Journalists

Jim Walsh of the Courier Post learned an important lesson last week, one he relates to his readers in his column today. After listening to former CBS anchorman Dan Rather speak to a Cherry Hill audience about the need for improvement in reporting, Walsh took an opportunity to ask Rather to talk about a specific instance where media failed — and wound up censored for his efforts:

Here’s the scene: Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather is in Cherry Hill, giving a speech about the need for journalists to do better.
“What’s gone out of fashion is the tough question and the follow-up,” he tells an admiring audience of about 600 people at Cherry Hill’s Star Forum.
So how can I, the guy covering Rather’s remarks, just sit there?
When he finishes, I hurry to a floor mike to ask Rather about an issue that will be part of my story.
“Mr. Rather,” I say. “Great suggestions. But you left the anchor desk last year after your report questioning President Bush’s military service was discredited. Key memos could not be authenticated. Do you think the failure to ask questions then affects your credibility now?”
Rather responds with civility — if not clarity. He notes, in part, that an independent review “couldn’t determine whether the documents were authentic or not.”
Eager to please, I follow up: “The Courier-Post won’t run something if we’re not sure it’s authentic. Are you saying it’s OK . . .”
But my microphone goes dead — and the audience stirs to life.
Some people jeer. Others glare and scowl (I can now distinguish between the two). This continues outside as I call in my story.

So let’s get this straight. Dan Rather spent his time in Cherry Hill lamenting the dearth of the tough question and the follow-up. When Walsh got an opportunity, he attempted to provide Rather with exactly what he demanded from the media — a tough question and a follow-up when the first answer evaded the issue. How did Rather and his handlers reward him? They cut off his microphone and made sure he couldn’t finish his follow-up.
And after listening to Rather talk about the supposed spinelessness of the media, how did the audience react to this obvious and hypocritical effort at stifling Walsh’s inquiry? They booed him. Quite obviously, both Rather and his audience engaged in mere posturing instead of truly supporting aggressive reporting.
Has there ever been a major journalist as egotistical and hypocritical as Dan Rather?