Breaking news from Rather: Stay true to your beliefs

By Dan Mollison

Last week I had the opportunity to hear former longtime anchor for CBS Dan Rather speak at Foellinger auditorium. He talked about his life growing up in a small town in Texas, his rise to the CBS nightly news and the challenges he faced after becoming a national figure. He informed us about how the media has changed in recent decades and encouraged us to think critically about the news we receive.

Most importantly, Rather taught us the importance of not backing down in the face of adversity – especially when choosing to stand up means exposing the truth and improving the lives of others.

The story Rather told of his life was inspiring. His first job in communications as a young man was working at a radio station in rural Texas that he described as being “the size of an outhouse.” His shifts were from 6 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays working for less than minimum wage, and he had to bargain with his employer before he was allowed a meal break. I was struck by his dedication to work ethic and the tenacity with which he strived to improve himself.

Hearing Rather speak gave me a new perspective on starting out into the world. Like many college students about to take this step, I have been preparing to work the long hours necessary to achieve my goals.

But while the path may be tough at times, Rather teaches us that there is at least one thing that all of us students can be thankful for: At least we’ll get meal breaks.

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Rather spoke about what he calls the “de-evolution” of the media, which has occurred because all of the major news organizations have been bought up by a handful of multinational corporations that have a vested interest in which news stories break and which don’t. Not only does the business-oriented approach of these conglomerates lead to watered-down news programs that more closely resemble entertainment than real news, but these corporations are naturally hesitant to report on stories that might negatively impact other factions of their parent company. Rather suggests that as we watch the news we should ask ourselves, “Is this intended to inform me or entertain me?” Rather also advises that we tune into a variety of news sources, including those with biases different from our own.

He believes that this is especially important if we want to avoid reinforcing our own inherent biases and more fully understand the truth about what is happening in our world.

The most meaningful part of the night was his discussion of power and the media. Simply put, he warned that there will always be powerful people who control the news (or attempt to), and that these people understand better than the general populace that there is much to be gained by maintaining this authority.

Their greed does incredible damage to our ability as citizens to be well informed and to fully understand our nation’s policies.

Rather made a powerful statement in relation to this situation: he told us that we mustn’t be coerced into hiding the truth by those who attempt to scare us, because their reasons for manipulating us are selfish.

In fact, Rather believes that the news that Americans need to hear most from our journalists are the stories that those in power don’t want us to know about.

Walking into Foellinger auditorium last Wednesday, I expected to hear about the life and legacy of a famous newscaster.

When I left, I had been exposed to yet another example of why it is so important for us to stay true to ourselves and to be courageous in the face of those who try to make us too afraid to expose the truth.

Thank you, Mr. Rather, for showing us how to be courageous in these uncertain times.