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Interview with Dan Rather (1974)

KPRC-TV

Sound | 1974

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  •  The Scene at 5 as a new program on Houston’s KPRC-TV, also known as TV 2 
  •  Dan Rather discusses the responsibility of journalists as watchdogs. He was the chief White House correspondent for CBS News at the time. Rather’s comment about not being “out to get this or any other president” is likely in reference to his famous exchange with President Richard Nixon during the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Houston on March 19, 1974.  
  •  Steve Smith began his broadcast career in the 1960s as a news anchor for KPRC-TV. He retired in 1991 as lead anchor for KHOU-TV. Doug Johnson was a weatherman for KPRC-TV from 1962 to 1995.  
 
Transcript
  •  I can understand how some people feel that. Because we, myself included, have not done as good a job as we should explaining what the job of a reporter is and what journalism is about. 
  •  I mean, how I see myself, is as a watchdog. I’m not an attack dog—I’m not out to get anybody—but I’m not a lapdog either. That is to say, that I don’t seek every day just to be petted and take anything that’s given to me. 
  •  My job is a watchdog. If I see something suspicious, I see my job is to bark and to keep on barking until somebody's attention is there. That isn’t to say that each time there’s something there. But that’s how I see it.  
  •  Now I’m not out to get this or any other president. I would like to believe, I hope that I’m unmoved by presidential hostility or flattery.  
  •  My goal is to get as close to the truth as I possibly can, to tell it as straight as I am humanly able and as fair as I possibly can, to be held accountable for what I say, when I make a mistake to acknowledge it, not to be arrogant, but not to allow myself to be pushed around either. 
  •  This goes with the territory of being a reporter, whether you’re covering the city hall here or the state legislature or the White House. 
 
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This unedited news footage for Houston’s KPRC-TV includes an interview with journalist Dan Rather. Conducted less than a month after his famous exchange with President Richard Nixon on March 19, 1974, Rather discusses the role of journalism and his responsibility as a watchdog. Also included is footage of people and dogs at the beach. Special thanks to AJ Ahmad and Rachel Barden for their help cataloging this film.
Dan Rather is a journalist best known for anchoring the CBS Evening News. He has won several Emmys and Peabody Awards for his contributions to the field of journalism.  
 
Rather was born Daniel Irvin Rather Jr. on October 31, 1931, in Wharton, Texas, to Byrl Veda Page and Daniel Sr., a pipeline worker. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Houston, where Rather grew up. He attended Sam Houston State University, where he worked for the school newspaper and a local radio station, and he also reported for the Associated Press, United Press, and The Houston Chronicle. The mass communications building at Sam Houston State was renamed in his honor in 1994.
 
After earning a degree in journalism in 1953, Rather planned to join the U.S. Marine Corps, but because he had rheumatic fever as a child, he was discharged. In 1954, he began reading the morning news on KTRH, a Houston-based radio station. For the next few years, he worked his way up until he became a reporter for KTRK and then KHOU, both Houston television stations.  
 
In 1961, Rather’s thorough coverage of Hurricane Carla for KHOU earned him a promotion to CBS News correspondent. His reporting on President John F. Kennedy’s assassination led him to become a White House correspondent and a foreign correspondent in London and Vietnam. In the early 1970s, Rather reported on the CBS Sunday Night News, CBS Reports, and 60 Minutes. When Walter Cronkite retired in 1981, Rather took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News, where he remained for 24 years. 
 
When he left CBS after 43 years, Rather began a weekly show called Dan Rather Reports. He also contributes to other programs, such as The Daily Show, and runs an independent company called News and Guts Media. He and his wife Jean Goebel have been married since 1957. They have two children, Robin and Dan, and have homes in New York City and Austin.