Jonah Goldberg

Well if he's got that "I" on his forehead and he keeps his emotions out of it, why should he express any concern for Americans "nursing" broken hearts?

Sentimentalism about the victims of society may be an admirable trait in a man, but in a journalist who claims to prize objectivity above all else it's a betrayal. How do you define "victim"? How do you define "looking out" for him? For Rather's critics it was always clear that he saw the government as the protector of the little guy. And that meant anyone who favored reducing the role of the federal government was automatically the bad guy.

"The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor," Dan Rather began one typical segment. That these programs didn't do what they were designed to do wasn't an important part of the story for Rather.

Rather could always be counted on to elevate certain facts, certain experts, certain arguments as more important than others. Perhaps that's an inevitable feature of all media - but especially of TV and print, where a few players have enormous influence. One needn't be a postmodern relativist to understand that journalistic objectivity - the ideal of reporting the facts without prejudice or favor - is an unattainable goal.

I have no objection to journalists having biases, much as I have no objection to two plus two equaling four. One may choose to accept the fact or not, but it is a fact nonetheless. Dan Rather, however, always insisted his reporting was bias-free, that he was calling the facts, and just the facts. His career as anchor ended in large part because he couldn't accept that something he had reported wasn't true and that he had rushed to report it because of an agenda that wasn't stamped with an "I." The irony is that that's what his career was always about.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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