Defending Dan


OK, on the occasion of the second snarky story on Dan Rather's move to HDNet, time to stand up for the truthy Mr. Courage.

First up, Dan Kaplan of The New York Post. Kaplan seems utterly befuddled by the very existence of HDNet:

Former CBS newsman Dan Rather has taken a job on HDNet, a little-known satellite channel that can only be seen by a tiny audience nationwide.

At HDNet Rather, 74, who was pushed out of CBS just three weeks ago after 44 years at the network, is joining Internet billionaire Mark Cuban, who owns the high-definition channel. …

Rather will appear on a new show, "Dan Rather Reports," that will be available in about 3 million homes, mostly on DirectTV and Dish satellite networks.

In New York City, Time Warner carries the signal on Ch. 724 in what amounts to TV's version of Siberia.

Uh, Dan. I'm guessing HDNet is on channel 724 because that is where the hi-def tier must be in NYC. And the whole point of being in HD is, well, being in HD. People will find HD programming, especially if they are paying for it, Dan. It is that good. I once sat and watched a Discovery HD documentary on Japanese silk kimono dyes just because it looked so damned good in HD.

The failure to appreciate the HD angle also seeped into Catherine Seipp's NRO account of the HDNet-Rather presser. Again the fixation on the size of the audience. "It's like he used to fight at Madison Square Garden and now he's fighting at a high-school auditorium," one old-guard TV scribe as laments to Seipp.

But far from the "sad home" Seipp sees, HDNet makes sense all around.

I figured Rather would end up doing truly sad commentary or fill-in slots for PBS, the horse-and-buggy of the TV world. Instead, billionaire Mark Cuban has added Rather to his quirky stable of personalities which includes bombastic sports gabber Roy Firestone and MTV refugee Matt Pinfield. You remember Pinfield, he is the chubby, bald guy whose inteview style is a perfect take on the star-struck Chris Farley "You 'member that? That was great!" SNL character. 'Member that? That was great!

So Rather fits a HDNet pattern. Moreover, Cuban has HDNet doing the only all-HD newscast anywhere—the kinda travelogue, vaguely BBCish HDNet World Report. Make no mistake, Rather will have resources quite a few cuts above a high school AV room and in many ways superior to the old broadcast nets. Cuban has acquired a serious mobile HD capacity and has used it to, for example, supply the only HD coverage of the recent space shuttle launch. The guy is no joke—except when he goes too ape for his beloved Dallas Mavs.

And do not forget the media savvy Cuban has garnered big press—negative, snarky and all—via Rather, and now has one of the most recongizable faces and names in America hitched to his growing network. Not a bad move there. Anyone who discounts what Cuban is doing with new technology, two words: Ted Fuckin-Turner.

Bonus thought for the con-blog collective mind to process: Rather has left the MSM for alt-media. Dan Rather is now one of you.

Yes, Rather is wacky—as Seipp's account of his rambling statements at the press conference confirms—but that does not mean the move to HDNet will be a disaster, or is some tragic coda.

In fact, freed of the demand to deliver ratings on a nightly network newscast, Rather, the personality, might flourish. All he has to do in roam the globe and not get in the way of glorious HD images. Let the pictures convey the big picture—it is when Rather starts explaining things that things go all to hell.

Courage, Dan.