What Is Dan Rather Doing In North Dakota Lecturing About Journalism And Ethics?

Stars come out to the New York premiere of Shutter Island held at the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan, NYC on February 17, 2010. Pictured: Dan Rather Fame Pictures, Inc

This week and weekend the North Dakota Humanities Council is hosting the Eric Sevareid Symposium (funded with your tax dollars!). Last night CBS’ Bob Schieffer adressed the symposium about journalism and ethics and, per one attendee who called me from the event, spent some time deriding we ruffians on the internet who are destroying journalism.

Over the weekend former CBS journalist Dan Rather will be addressing the crowd about his memories of CBS reporter (and North Dakota native) Eric Sevareid and also expounding on his views of journalism and ethics.

That’s right. Dan Rather, who might still be at CBS were it not for his attempt to smear a sitting President with forged evidenced and false reporting just weeks before a national election, is being funded by your tax dollars to lecture North Dakotans about ethics in journalism. Rather is a disgrace to journalism, and I’d question the integrity of anyone holding him up as an example of a purveyor of objective and unbiased information.

Now, I don’t doubt that some will dispute my characterization of Rather’s career. Some still cling to the idea that the story that ultimately did in Rather’s lengthy career was “fake but accurate” (among other delusions), and that’s no doubt driven by ideology. The bias in Rather’s coverage fit their ideological notions so they like him.

Fine. It’s a free country and we can all agree to disagree. But is it appropriate to use our tax dollars to put on a event featuring a figure as controversial as Rather? I don’t think so. And I’m not saying this as someone who thinks that the topic of Sevareid and his legacy are unimportant ones. Sevareid has always been an interesting historical figure to me. In fact, Sevareid’s first book Canoeing With the Cree was about a 2,250 mile canoe trip he and a friend took from Minnesota up to Hudson Bay in Canada.

That friend’s name? Walter Port. My great uncle.

So I’m not completely antagonistic as to the subject of this symposium. I just wish its organizers were a bit more intellectually honest, and I’m not in favor of our tax dollars being used to organize it.

Of course, I dispute the notion that it’s appropriate for our tax dollars to be funding something like the North Dakota Humanities Council to begin with. If these people want to have their council and put on events like this one why don’t they pay for it themselves?

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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