Rather calls on Obama to form White House commission on public media

Iconic former CBS anchorman Dan Rather in Aspen called on President Obama to bail out the news industry by forming a special White House commission, according to the Aspen Daily News.

Speaking at times tearfully to members of the Aspen Institute on Tuesday, Rather said the Obama administration’s commission on public media could make policy suggestions on new business models that could save journalism jobs and prop up failing news organizations. But he added the move is as critical for American citizens as it is for the foundering industry itself.

“A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom,” Rather said. “This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about.”

The veteran newsman was most passionate when talking about the loss of war correspondents.

“I feel particularly strong about coverage of the wars,” he said. “No apologies, both as a journalist and as a citizen I just can’t stand to leave those guys out there, fighting, dying, bleeding, getting torn up and say, ‘Look, it’s page 14 news.’ Or ‘Sorry, not on tonight’s newscast.’ It’s an example of the problem, that and not having the watchdogs.”

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