Dan Rather Nearing 5 Years At HDNet & 80th Birthday

NEW YORK (AP) – When Dan Rather took a job to create a news program at Mark Cuban’s little-seen HDNet, it felt like a television version of a rebound relationship.

His departure from CBS News was fresh and bitter, and who was this new suitor, after all? Yet Rather is now approaching several milestones: five years at HDNet; nearly 200 episodes of “Dan Rather Reports”; and on Halloween, an 80th birthday as a still-working reporter.

“I never thought we’d get to three years, much less five,” Rather said recently, flashing pride about work most of his old CBS audience has probably never seen.

His show airs on Tuesday nights each week and promises “hard-edged field reports, bold investigations, in-depth interviews and stories from around the world as you have never seen them.”

He delivers a solo “60 Minutes”-style report backed by a full-time staff of 22 people and another 10 free-lancers who work regularly. He presents serious stories that often unfold at a more leisurely pace than most broadcast reports. Recent topics include arranged marriages among Indian immigrants, the black market sale of human kidneys, sexual abuse by priests and floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

He does 42 new shows a year.

“We like to cover the stories that other people are not covering,” he said. “We try to be good story hunters, storytellers and story breakers. We’re trying to do quality journalism with integrity.”

In five years, “Dan Rather Reports” has been nominated for 12 news Emmy Awards, and won two. Rather portrays the operation as an ideal proving ground for young journalists, “the best place in American electronic journalism to work.”

Five years ago, Rather accepted Cuban’s offer to put together a new show without knowing all that would be involved or even much about him. He recalled walking into a business that rents temporary real estate and the receptionist calling back to her boss, “There’s someone here who says he’s Dan Rather and he wants to rent office space.”

Cuban was more optimistic at the time than Rather, who felt pressure to get on the air.

“When we did our first program,” Rather said, “we didn’t have a second program.”

Cuban said the show had “vastly exceeded” his expectations. “Name another show that earns an Emmy nomination for every 10 shows it airs,” he said.

What’s not clear is how many people actually see the work. HDNet is available in about 23 million homes in the U.S., less than a quarter of those with TVs, although the count was less than 4 million when Rather started. Ratings for the show itself are not tallied.

HDNet makes the show’s material available online and Rather tweets (“Saw ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ and liked it a lot. Good time.”), but he has no illusions about the reach.

“We have to struggle for recognition,” he said. “We have to struggle for the impact. Time after time, we see the same story done on one of the big networks or in a newspaper a few months after we’ve done it. Somebody, somewhere is watching what we’re doing.”

Much of Rather’s time and money (he won’t say how much) was tied up over the past few years on his $70 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS. Rather claimed he had been wrongfully removed as “CBS Evening News” anchor over the network’s disputed 2004 report about President George W. Bush’s military service. Questions were raised about the legitimacy of documents that bolstered the report.

Some of Rather’s critics, even former colleagues, suggested he was on a quixotic mission fueled by bitterness. Although New York’s top court ended the case in January 2010, Rather said he had no regrets. He was happy to depose as many people at CBS as he could in an attempt to talk about corporate interference in news decisions. He’ll discuss the case in detail in a new book, “Summing Up,” expected to be out next year.

“People are going to think what they’re going to think,” he said. “The important thing is what you think about yourself.”

Scott Pelley, the new “CBS Evening News” anchorman, has described his fellow Texan Rather as a mentor. The first note of congratulations he received upon getting the job, he said, arrived by way of courier from Rather.

CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, once Rather’s producer on the evening news, was asked a few weeks ago whether the network would ever bury the hatchet with the man who worked there for 44 years.

“For me, it’s tough because I really loved working with him,” Fager said. “And he means so much to our organization. There’s such a great history that he’s involved in. We worked together for years, one of my favorite people, and I learned so much from him. It ended so badly that it’s hard to see how it could be reconciled. But again, he’s an important part of our history and we would never try to deny that.”

Translation: As long as Leslie Moonves is boss at the CBS Corp., don’t expect to see Rather walking through the door of the news division’s West 57th Street headquarters.

“I have a lot of friends at CBS News,” Rather said. “I try hard to pull for them. I do pull for them. I think a lot of Scott Pelley.”

The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks reminds Rather of one of his career’s biggest moments. HDNet and Rather will mark the moment, but it will be nothing as when Rather was in the anchor chair leading a major news division as it came to terms with a big story unfolding in front of it.

“As time goes along, I miss it less and less,” he said.

Rather is grayer than he was when he left CBS, and thicker in the face. He walks deliberately up the stairs at a Manhattan barbecue joint where he lunched recently. He might be almost 80 but he was in Afghanistan for a story this summer.

How long “Dan Rather Reports” continues “depends on Dan,” Cuban said. “I hope for at least a few more years.”

Rather said he wants to keep working “as long as I have my health, God’s grace and Mark’s money.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • C Bauer



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  • Joetx

    “Dan Rather Reports” is a great news source, much better than you get from ABC & NBC. Faux News can’t hold a candle to it.

  • Joe

    I was thrilled when that guy was forced to leave his former job in disgrace after being found to be a fraud. He’s been living in almost total obscurity ever since.

  • Hoo

    Is this really news? Who cares where Dan Rather is and what he’s doing. He ruined CBS News. Let him bask in obscurity!

  • Land

    This guy lost his job for telling the truth about the fraud Bush, yet you can still turn on FOX to hear a constant drum of insults and lies against the current president.

    • Obummer

      Yes. All lies against Obama.

      “Unemployment won’t go over 8%.” Lie.
      26% of people polled approve of Obama’s handling of the economy. Not a lie.
      “Shovel-ready jobs!” Lie.
      Stock market’s worst plunge since 2008. Not a lie.

      • One Big-Assed Mistake America

        I’m with the consensus here. I’d like to see some data with quoted sources to back up Land’s assertions. It’s easy to say what he says and not have to worry about the proof to back it up. Land? How is unemployment the fault of BANKS and CORPORATIONS? Let’s start with that one. Remember, sources please.

      • C Bauer

        You’re arguing with a cretin who types, “noon trust it anymore.”?!! LOL. You should send a bill once you see your time was wasted by a person with an IQ that makes Forrest Gump look like Einstein in comparison.

      • Land

        Unemployment? Banks and Corporation fault.

        Approval ratings? Because Obama panders to wingnuts.

        Shovel-ready jobs? Killed by republicans.

        Current plunge crisis? Because Republicans turned Wall Street into casinos and noon trust it anymore.

        Here’s a lie:

        FOX headline Friday:

        “Obama is going crash the markets through stimulus spending”

        This is an opinion not supported by history. But you wingnuts don’t read history, do you?

      • JD

        Haha. OK. It’s everyone’s fault but your savior’s. Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

        Since you’re so well-versed in history, tell me your evidence for your current argument, and give me a history lesson after that. I’m a constitutional attorney, so this should be interesting.

  • Buckeye

    Who is Dan Rather?

  • Land

    1) Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

    2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

    3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

    4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

    5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

    6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

    7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

    8) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

    9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

    10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

    • JD

      Oh, come on, Land. You can argue better than THAT, can’t you? So they made profits and paid little taxes. How does this answer the question about unemployment? We’re still waiting on how banks and corporations are responsible for unemployment, as you asserted in your original statement.

      Can you answer the question in an intelligent fashion without dribbling your empty liberal talking points that you’re spoon-fed to regurgitate on command? Well?

    • Obummer

      What do annual profits and tax rates have to do with unemployment? What a total disconnect in logic. Your post would have be a good starting point for a discussion on taxes to help lower the deficit, but unemployment? What are you smoking?

  • C Bauer

    I agree. What a totally foolish post by Land. Let’s take the information from Land’s post and relate it to unemployment. Maybe we can make sense of his post and help him a little.

    179 airborne tankers from Boeing = manufacturing jobs = EMPLOYMENT.

    Nope. Sorry, Land. I couldn’t help in supporting your argument. You’re going to have to try again.

  • Two If By Tea

    I just read all the posts for this story. LOL. It’s typical of the left-wing parrots who blame Bush, blame The Tea Party, blame everyone else instead of the idiot who had a majority in his corner in Congress for TWO YEARS, and still couldn’t get a GD thing done. “We’re still getting out of Bush’s mess! SQUAWK! It’s those Republicans! SQUAWK! Nobody’s giving Obama a chance! SQUAWK! TAX THE RICH! SQUAAAAAWK!!!”

    Without all those big, bad immoral companies MAKING MONEY, there would be HIGHER unemployment and the economy would be even WORSE. Think, Land… THINK!

  • Rich Jew

    Let’s see. $68 BILLION in earnings and a $157 million refund from the IRS would be like me making $68,000 and getting only $157 for a refund. Sounds like Valero Energy got the shaft. If Valero was a person, they’d be PO’d. So, WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? This is why YOU’RE POOR (and bitter) and THEY’RE NOT. You can’t even THINK in dollar figures that high.

  • Land

    When I pay taxes to an energy company that does not pay taxes that’s called Chavez-style nationalization.

    And a government contract is a government job.

    The divide between rich and poor grows.

    When a corporation can buy everything, Democracy is dead.

    You people are fools. Or liars. Probably both.

    • JD

      You’re still bellyaching about taxes. It still doesn’t answer the question about how banks and corporations are responsible for the unemployment figures. Why are they responsible for our national 9.2% unemployment rate? You can spout your rhetoric until you’re blue in the face, but the question still remains unanswered. This proves one thing: you try to sound informed, yet you are totally ignorant. Nice try, but you’ve lost this round. You can call people liars and fools, but the one real fool here is the one who continues to make an ass of himself because he cannot answer the question, and that is you. Have a nice day and try to become more informed before you embarrass yourself again on a comment board that’s read by hundreds of people.

      • C Bauer

        I told you you’d be wasting your time!

        I think the only thing that we may glean from this is that he may not be a liberal. His rant about Chavez-style nationalization hints that he may be a Tea Party person or a Ron Paul nut (more than likely the latter). Whatever he is, he sure can’t argue. JD, you lost the bet and you owe me lunch at Dakota’s.

        You should have fired at him that classic line from Billy Madison at the end of your comment. You know, this one: “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

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