For 24 years, Dan Rather was the face of CBS News as the networks nightly news anchor. Now, at 86, he’s gone digital, delivering news through his website, News and Guts, and its associated Facebook page, which has more than one million followers.
Recently, Rather sat down to talk about his new book, “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism,” his favorite books and his thoughts on Bay Area sports.
What is your least favorite thing about social media?
First of all, I’m very grateful for what success we’ve had on social media. I have my Facebook page, and I have a new site, separate from Facebook, newsandguts.com. I’m very grateful for the reception that both of those have received in social media. But the ability of anonymous people to smear the reputations of other people or to spread propaganda and known untruths is one of the weaknesses of the post-digital divide, the whole world of news on the Internet.
I do think as time goes along, we’ll make adjustments and it’ll get better, but that’s the main concern. Particularly, the ability to ruin somebody’s reputation anonymously.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area when you visit?
Well, I’m a sports fan. Right now, I love to see the Warriors play. I did not get to a game this time around, but I did get back to my hotel room in time to have a hamburger and watch the Warriors play. I also like to see the Giants who’ve had some really good years. This last baseball season wasn’t their best.
I’m sorry the Raiders were moving out of Oakland. If I’d had to vote, I wouldn’t have voted for that. The 49ers have been down. I’ve been following 49ers since before we had pro football in Texas, but they’ll be back. I think they got a pretty good quarterback now. We’ll see whether they can build around him.
If you could tell everyone in the country to read one book other than yours, what would it be?
Let the record show that I’m giving it a little thought. I would say read Homer. Because the wisdom in Homer’s most famous two books has stood up over the centuries. It’s also a book that you can read it and keep reading it and learn something new each time.
So, say if you only have one book, then I would make it “The Iliad.” If you can have two, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” I would consider that one long read. On a distant island with only one book, outside of possibly the Holy Bible, that’s what I’d take.
Where do you get your news?
I’ve spent a lifetime getting news from almost every conceivable place. I read newspapers. I read six, seven newspapers a day. I read magazines. Yes, I do more than occasionally, read a book. I watch television both on a regular television set, on my computer screen and on my iPhone. I’m pretty much all news, all the time, but that’s partly because I’m in the news business. But it’s also because I have a passion for following news and a passion for trying to report news.
My absolute go-to base camps for news are the Associated Press and Reuters. Reasons: these are two news services with worldwide news gathering capacity. They have reporters all over the world. And two, they’ve been in business a long time, and they have high standards. So, if something appears, I say to myself quickly, “Is this news? Is it fake news? Is this true?” My base touching place is AP or Reuters.
Has it been liberating for you to go from the anchor chair to social media where you have more freedom to inject your own feelings?
Right now, I can just say, I play no favorites, pull no punches. I may be wrong, but this is what I think. This is what I know and trying to put things in context and perspective. Not only has it been liberating, but it’s been gratifying. Frankly, I had no idea that I could make it in social media. It’s one of the surprises in my life that I have.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.