Before his acrimonious departure in 2006, Dan Rather spent 44 years at CBS News. For more than two decades he was the face of the network, anchor of the CBS Evening News, watched by millions of viewers every night. But it was never the right fit. He felt constrained by the anchor desk, unable to share opinions or analysis, and he was more interested in reporting in the field than reading a teleprompter in a Manhattan studio. Now at age 86, Rather, who started his reporting career before the advent of color TV, has found a medium that suits his personality and has revived his influence: near-daily Facebook posts in which he expounds on American life, politics, and, especially, Donald Trump.
“What I’m doing now gives me as much pleasure and satisfaction as anything I’ve done in my career,” Rather tells me in his instantly recognizable, barely changed baritone via telephone from Galveston, Texas.
Though hardly active two years ago, Rather’s Facebook page is now liked by more than two and a half million users, more than the pages of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Megyn Kelly, or Anderson Cooper—let alone any standing network news anchor.
“What Facebook allows me to do is express myself with commentary that I couldn’t do at the network,” Rather says. “Facebook allows me to be myself. I answer to no one but myself.”
Rather has been especially popular with younger audiences on the platform, many of whom have no memory of him as a network anchor. In January, he started hosting a weekly YouTube show for The Young Turks, a progressive online network geared toward millennials. Billed as an “untraditional evening newscast,” Rather appears on the 30-minute show from his office desk. He also oversees a production company and website called News and Guts, hosts a weekly Sirius XM radio show called Dan Rather’s America, and hosts an entertainment-focused television show, The Big Interview, on AXS TV. Last fall, he co-authored a book with Elliot Kirschner, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, which debuted on The New York Times bestseller list.
Read more at The Columbia Journalism Review.