Defending Dan

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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.

NEXT: And John Edwards is Changing His Name to "Atticus Finch"

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  1. 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.

    I’ll second that….
    My friend and I watched a similar discovery channel program about lizards in HD on his 50 inch Plasma HD — it was amazing…we were hypnotized by how good the picture quality was (we had just smoked a blunt too….but I digress)

  2. And I’ll third. When I surf, I just surf the HD stations. I barely watch SD (that’s standard definition for the non-geeks) TV anymore. I get 8 HBO’s, but I don’t even look at any but the HBO HD.

  3. I think my favorite HDNET personality is Katie Daryl, who does the True Music series. And then there is Art Mann. The luckiest man on earth.

  4. HD is utterly gorgeous.

    I spent an evening at a producer’s home who had VooM, and watched a documentary on Impressionism, and followed it up with an HD transfer of Minority Report

    What was really cool was the ability to switch between the HD version of the movie, and the NTSC version. Yow!

    Of course HD has a small audience, so what? It’s going to grow. The whole thing reminds me of the first days of FOX Nooze, when left-wing talking heads were predicting it’s imminent failure and the small number of homes receiving it.

    The only miss-step I see here is the hiring of Rather.

    I honestly don’t care to stare at the cragged-out face of a guy in his seventies. Now Rudy Bakhtiar, on the other hand…

  5. “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.”

    Well, he did break a story that involved largely falsified documents, and got angry about conspiracies that were out to get him as a result. Looks to me like he’s got his alt-media chops.

    Next thing you know, he’ll be blogging over at PrisonPlanet.

  6. Right you are, Jeff. Channel 700 is the beginning range for Hidef on Time Warner NYC.

  7. HD is amazing.

    And I agree with ChicagoTom, it is even better after smoking a bowl…

    So the question is does Dan Rather start to make sense after smoking a couple, or does it take more…?

  8. So the question is does Dan Rather start to make sense after smoking a couple, or does it take more…?

    I’ll tell you after he starts broadcasting

  9. I figure after all the tasty, tasty crow Rather had to eat he’s got nowhere to go but up.

  10. So, will Rather be showing us forged documents in HD now?

    -jcr

  11. So, um, what is the frequency, Kenneth?

  12. You know, normally I really enjoy anything that denigrates Dan Rather. Anything. But this, well, this is just, I dunno, silly.

  13. 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.

    Now… Why would anyone want to see Dan Rather in HD?

    “Is that a pre-cursory sore leading to a melanoma on the side of his nose?”

    No, thanks…

  14. Two words: Sunrise Earth.

    If it’s on in the morning – even one I’ve seen before – I am guaranteed to be late for work.

    And yeah, HD might be a small audience in relative terms, but it is quite a desirable audience to have. And anything Cuban touches seems to turn to gold, anyway. You could do a hell of a lot worse than to hitch your wagon to that star.

    This feels to me like the recent drumbeat from the sports MSM about how America is not interested in the World Cup. Perhaps, in their echo chamber, they do not know anyone who follows soccer. Well boys, at least in my big ‘ol city, you could not get away from people talking about this match or that goal.

    Thank goodness for the proliferation of information and entertainment sources, that’s all I have to say. It’s a good time to be alive if you like to watch TV. =)

  15. Fletch is right. OK, so HD is awesome. I would probably love to watch sports or nature documentaries or whatever in HD. But why would anyone want to watch news in HD? Why Dan Rather in high definition? Why, why, why?

  16. Can we get CBS’s Lara Logan instead ? She’s really hot.

  17. Steve, ‘Geek et al:

    Solid on Rather’s mug in HD. Yes, horrid.

    But I can’t imagine Cuban plans to deploy him in a traditional anchor/studio set up. Get him out in the field talking and interacting with people — he’ll dig it and so will the viewers. I think that is what Cuban meant by his “Dan Rather unleashed” quip.

    Otherwise I got 50in of HD hell headed my way.

  18. I honestly don’t care to stare at the cragged-out face of a guy in his seventies.

    I saw a Rolling Stones concert on HD. Looking at Keith Richards face was like watching a Nature series on the Grand Canyon. I was impressed.

  19. Is this a joke?

  20. “But why would anyone want to watch news in HD? ”

    I expect the draw will be on-location reporting, not Dan-as-talking-head-behind-a-desk.

  21. Two more words: Bikini Destinations.

    Building on what Bee said, perhaps it was that all 64 games of the World Cup were available in HD that helped out, too. I know I enjoyed the hell out of that little feature.

    Cuban also broadcasts MLS on his network. It’s absolutely beautiful. Along with hockey, soccer is a sport that is meant for HD (especially 16:9 aspect). You get to see more of the field without zooming way out (what gets missed so often in broadcasting soccer in this country is all the runs being made off the ball), and the detail is breathtaking.

  22. Further evidence that just because someone has a blog does not mean they no shit about up and coming technologies.

    TV is a series of tubes…

  23. Matt pinfield really was a breathe of fresh air to mtv. Wel not so much fresh, but he did give them the life they had in the 80’s. sad to see him swept aside for carson daly and the like. Anyway, best of luck Mr. Rathers. If I had HD, I’d sure as hell watch you.

  24. Rather’s move reminds me of the bands that used to fill stadiums in the 70s now playing Casinos, town festivals, and smaller rock clubs. They go where the audience is.

    And everyone gushing about HD should be reminded that it was foisted upon broadcasters by the FCC in order to free up UHF spectrum space for wireless. The worst of four possible standards was chosen. Not only that, but it is almost impossible to keep on the air. All you need is an AWAC plane flying somewhere in line of site of an HD transmitter and the signal collapses.
    It’s great for cable. Broadcast, not so much.
    Either way, in my book it’s possibly the most egregious anti-business mandate to come down from the gov’t. It forces broadcasters to finance their own obsolescence.

  25. Jeff P,
    Nobody (except you) is talking about broadcast HD.

  26. JeffP,

    Are you talking about the MPEG2 codec or the 8VSB modulation? Both seem to make sense for the context, although I agree MPEG2 probably would not be chosen today.

    But yeah, cable is where it’s at since they can use more dense QAM modulation and AVC-style codecs under development.

  27. Cable’s still stuck with the broadcast mandated standard. They just don’t have to overpower the signal to cut through ambient noise.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like HD. The pixelization and artifacting look so lifelike…

  28. What’s the SPF, Kenneth?

  29. Can we get CBS’s Lara Logan instead ? She’s really hot.

    Or better yet, Lara Croft.

  30. Maybe it’s supposed to be nostalgic.

    To me it sounds surrealistic, but then all news media today seem surrealistic, thanks to Mr. R and his ilk.

  31. Picture quality, yeah – but DAN RATHER in HD??

    This is the man who preferred a slightly blurry foucus in regular t.v.

    My sister, a professional media maven, used to work in a room with 4 tvs – 3 broadcast networks + CNN (this was before Fox). One of her responsibilities was preparing a daily summary tape of the previous evening’s news coverage for higher ups. She said that watching Dan was painful because of focus issues – and incredibly obvious if you had all 3 on at once.

    She once met a CBS producer and asked what was up. He swore that when the Berlin Wall fell and all the anchors rushed over Rather was REALLY pleased with his local cameraman – who turned out to have a slightly out of focus camera. So, anchors being what they were, CBS began to shoot Dan Rather slightly out of focus.

    Now this is entirely hearsayical, but it does make me wonder about Dan in HD.

  32. Fletch nailed it. I susupect most people hear haven’t seen what elderly people look like in High Definition.

    HD will emphasize every blackhead and wart on Rather’s ancient face. It will be frightening. The other alternative is to give him a really bad make-up job which HD will also expose. He will end up looking like a painted scarecrow for people to laugh at. Sad…

  33. Sharon Tay on HD, oh hell yeah.

    Dan Rather? Please. Badlands landscapes would be more appealing… and less textured.

  34. “. . .will Rather be showing us forged documents in HD now?”

    In point of fact, the documents he touted weren’t “forged.” They were fabricated.

    Forgery takes a genuine, existing work and makes a copy of it. Your friendly neighborhood forger might come up with a good simulacrum of an actual 20-dollar bill. He’d have a tougher time getting away with one for, say, 33 dollars.

    The documents in the Rather case had no previous existence, so nothing was being copied. The fabricators had no pecuniary motive; they were interested only in executing a hatchet job on their target. A decade or more ago they would most likely have gotten away with it.

  35. New technology hasn’t been very frienly to Dan so far.

    We all hate Microsoft, but how many people outside of Corel had their careers destroyed by MS Word?

  36. If Rather sticks to reporting on kimonos or lizards, then he’s got an outside chance of going out with some honor and Cuban might make some money. If he gets into the news not even having him as a life sized hologram would make him acceptable. I now have one more reason not to waste money on HD.

  37. We’ve had the local ABC news in HD for quite a while. They had, and actually demonstrated, problems with make-up. They corrected for it and ended up with the best looking news show on television. If you haven’t seen HD in this context you really should. As a bonus, almost all of prime time network is now widescreen HD with 5.1 surround. The CSI shows are espcially amazing. Enjoy.

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