It is not necessary to believe that Rather knowingly used phony documents. It seems more likely that the political opportunity was too juicy to resist just because some document experts pointed out some problems with the typing and other details. It is the purpose that is decisive, so that even honest people are eligible for this award. We have to be inclusive.
Dan Rather's closest competition for the Joseph Goebbels award was Ted Koppel, whose "Nightline" broadcast went to a Communist country to get witnesses to speak on camera -- with a Communist official present -- to discredit what the Swift Boat Veterans had said about an incident involving John Kerry during the Vietnam war.
Not one of the American eyewitnesses, who could have spoken freely in a free country, was interviewed in this "Nightline" broadcast.
That's strong competition for the Joseph Goebbels award but Rather wins narrowly on the basis of potential impact, which is after all the whole purpose of propaganda. However, with Dan Rather retiring in 2005, Ted Koppel might well qualify for next year's award.
Any number of journalists would rate an "honorable mention" in this year's contest -- or perhaps "dishonorable mention" might be more appropriate. ABC reporter Carol Simpson was one of many who have said that they went into journalism in hopes of making this a better world. That's what Joseph Goebbels thought he was doing. His idea of a better world was undoubtedly very different from Ms. Simpson's but both saw journalism as a vehicle for achieving their political goals.
Perhaps there could be a lifetime achievement Goebbels award for those who entered journalism for political reasons, rather than to convey information and let the audience decide. But there would be too many claimants and the award would therefore lose its exclusive quality.
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