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Monday, July 02, 2012

Dan Rather On HBO's The Newsroom: "Bullseye," "Spot On"


Dan Rather has sort of reinvented himself into something of a grandfatherly progressive hero. He recounts his days as a journalist on The Nation magazine's cruises. He goes on Chris Matthews and does his "Ratherisms" as Chris Matthews laughs benignly, revelling in the borrowed glory of the newsman's unlikely gravitas. It is a significant upgrade from Rather's role as the Mr. Magoo of the 2000 election cycle, as well as being essentially the poster-boy for the sheer irrelevance of the broadcast network TV anchorman role in today's society.
Gawker, in an act of florid, red Machiavellian genius -- on the part of Nick Denton, clearly not on the part of the clumsy Rather -- has the former anchorman reviewing Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. It's all so so meta. Rather posts, in a sort of faux-preppy, 60s newsman patois that could just as easily be a parody. Only it isn't:
"Bull's-eye. Spot on.
"The second episode of HBO's The Newsroom is better—much better—than the first. And I thought the first one was terrific. This one is less given to monologues, more given to crisp, sharp dialogue and action.
"In its depiction of big network television newsrooms—the people who work in them, what goes on in and around them, and in the front offices and boardrooms that control them—this show is almost eerily true to life.
"The plot has now clearly developed into a battle for the soul of the anchorman, his newscast—and, indeed, for the soul of news in general.
"Loved it when the executive producer, MacKenzie Hale (played by Emily Mortimer) implores her big-ratings anchorman, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), to 'Be the leader. Be the moral center of the show. Be the integrity.'
"This echoed almost exactly what the best of the executive producers I worked with at The CBS Evening News said to me."
Courage! And of course, all paths lead to Dan Rather. Rather reviewing The Newsroom for Gawker is a sophisticated game of calculated advantages. Rather, to his advantage, gets to reach Gawker's audience; Gawker, to their advantage, gets the free PR of the whole freakshow aspect of a former CBS anchor blogging for a national gossip site, albeit one that began as a hip Manhattan media-centric site. These anchors -- and I'm looking at you, Brian Williams -- have been swigging the Gawker media cool aid watercooler for quite some time, hoping some of the sugar. The Corsair is a bit befuddled as to why that is (unique views? cultural relevancy? a modicum of cool?), but one thing is for certain -- that evil , bronchial laugh that you hear reverberating through the halls of where the chattering classes water themselves is that of Denton.

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