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Live From SXSW


Well this is gonna drive the wingnuts crazy, but let's admit, it's a short trip.

Dan Rather and I did the keynote interview for South by Southwest here in Austin today and we had a great time.  It's hard to think back on Rather's history and his iconic moments with Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush and think of him in the same breath with anyone else out there today — if the Libby trial made one thing clear, it is that nobody is willing to ask George Bush or Dick Cheney the hard questions that need to be asked, and worse yet they don't seem to feel any shame for their failure to do so.  It's hard to be embarrassed for people who don't have the good sense to be embarrassed for themselves.

We spoke a lot about the different factors that have led to the current crisis in journalism, where the fourth estate has largely fallen down on their responsibility as watchdogs to power.  Dan is pretty feisty, and though we didn't get into it I'm sure his willingness to be candid about the problems plaguing his profession (which he is always quick to admit applies to himself as well) come from the mauling he got from right wing half wits.  We didn't get into that but the specter of what happened to Rather at the hands of a bunch of GOP political operatives as they laundered their bullshit through clueless tools like Charles Johnson and John Hinderaker has probably urged many journalists into what Rather refers to as the attitude of "go along, get along."  The politics of access, the "clubiness" of the beltway set, journalists who fall in love with their sources and stop putting pressure on them, an administration that actively punishes anyone who doesn't toe the party line, the consolidation of major media into the hands of a few and he death of the fairness doctrine — all bear some responsibility for the failure of journalists to ask the tough questions until somebody answers them.  It may have created a vacuum for the blogosphere to fill, but I don't think anyone who cares about the future of the country can see much good in it.

We played the first few notes of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth" from REM when Dan came up on the stage and the audience loved it and gave him a well-deserved standing ovation, and then another at the end.  It was really gratifying to see him to heartily welcomed by a huge auditorium full of people who want to see a return to his kind of investigative tenacity and integrity.  We had a lot of fun and hopefully there will be a YouTube available of it soon, though there are not PoliticsTV gurus around so we may have to wait some time for a clip.

As a side note, it was my day to play fan girl.  Afterwards I was walking through the lobby with my luggage (got stuck in Phoenix last night and went straight to the conference from the airport) when some guy said "nice job" and I turned to see him standing with Patrick Norton.  Long time readers of the blog know that my favorite TV show was the long-lamented Screen Savers with Patrick Norton and Leo LaPorte; I watched it every day for years.  Anyway Patrick is working for Ziff-Davis and is the host of DL-TV, and he now knows that both me and my luggage are unabashed fans.   

The poodles are going to be very upset they were left out of all of this, Kobe always dreamed he would build an UGM.   Between missing that and the nuclear tacos, I don't know how they'll ever get over the disappointment.

Update:  I left this bit about Rather in the comments, but emptywheel says I should add it to the main post:

I asked him how he’d feel if somebody (no names, please) said they knew that if they put a story out through him they could “control the message.”

You should have seen the look of horror that came over his face.

I laughed.  A lot. 

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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