Dan Rather warns news media needs to find a new business model or risk losing objectivity

Rather at SXSW

Rather at SXSW

Legendary US news anchor Dan Rather has said “there is a tsunami of BD” being put out by authorities today, and warned society is risking losing journalists to really question that authority.

Rather, who was anchor of CBS’s evening news for 25 years, also accused traditional broadcasters of not having a model to support news, saying they were “throwing jello up against the bark and hoping to see what sticks, and not much has stuck”.

Speaking on the same panel examining news in the age of Snapchat Dan Pfeiffer, senior advisor at the White House, said the erosion of traditional news audiences meant President Barack Obama has to “work harder than any previous president to communicate with the American people” adding: “The next president will have to work harder still”. He said that was the reason the president had done a series of interviews with n0n-hard news digital outlets and appeared on chat shows like Jimmy Fallon, in a bid to hit more of the voters.

But Rather said while he was working hard: “Any president has to be careful not to give the public the impression he’s spending most of his time on public appearances – is he taking time to think and doing business?”

(l-r) Pfeiffer; Rather; inteviewer Andrew Beeker

(l-r) Pfeiffer; Rather; inteviewer Andrew Beeker

The veteran newsman, who now runs independent production company News and Guts, also warned it is easy for journalists to get seduced by “presidential power” adding: “There’s a tendency to say who am I to question the president?

“But as a society that’s important as part of the system of checks and balances. If you’re trying to be an insider and need to be liked as a journalist, you’d better get a dog.”

He said this is where trained journalists are needed in order to get through the “constant tsunami of BS,” adding “people have to be able to sort out whats real and whats not, and thats where a professional reporter comes in to separate BS from brass tacks”.

Pfeiffer predicted new platform Meerkat, which allows people to stream from mobile devices to audiences, as the technology which would most affect the 2016 Presidential election.

But Rather said whilst new technology was good  “if we don’t use it to illuminate educate and inspire its just tiny electronic processors inside a case”.

Pfeiffer also highlighted the power of the new wave of satirical news shows like The Daily Show and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, highlighting his report on net neutrality as something which “fundamentally changed” the debate, prompting the most public comments of any government review ever.

Alex Hayes in Austin

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