Dan Rather's Carry-On Baggage

(Damian Dovarganes - AP)
By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

PASADENA, Calif., July 11

Former CBS newsman Dan Rather says he'll have complete editorial control over the content of the weekly newsmagazine he will kick off for Mark Cuban's HDNet in October.

"News at its best is a wake-up call, not a lullaby, and I'm not in the lullaby business," Rather told reporters Tuesday at Summer TV Press Tour 2006.

Three weeks after being shown the door by the broadcast network's news division, Rather appeared before TV critics here to discuss details of his new three-year pact with billionaire Cuban.

Rather, 74, said he was relieved to be moving from news "defined by the economics of the corporation presenting the news" to "independent journalism."

The longtime anchor, who left CBS News last month after he and management could not agree on his future role there, said that "nothing I say here is designed to be critical of CBS."

Then he came out swinging.

"CBS is a large organization . . . with a chain of command that looks like the wiring of a nuclear plant. . . . The difference [at HDNet] is that the chain of command begins and ends with me. With 'Dan Rather Reports' I have creative and editorial control."

When he left CBS, Rather already had relinquished his anchor chair at "CBS Evening News" and was reporting for "60 Minutes"; his final year had been marked by controversy over the network's discredited story on President Bush's National Guard tenure.

Rather acknowledged he comes to HDNet with "baggage."

"Yes, I have baggage -- I have the baggage of being a graduate of the journalism school of South Vietnam," he said.

He also acknowledged he was "biased -- I have a very strong bias toward independent journalism."

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