With his humble origins in mind, the eminent journalist is returning to his alma mater on Nov. 25 to deliver the first of two lectures on media ethics. The two-part program concludes Nov. 26 with a presentation at the University of Texas in Austin.
Tailored to students pursuing careers in journalism, the special program will incorporate a televised link between the campuses of SHSU and UT.
Rather is probably the most prominent American newsman to speak regularly on media ethics.
In a widely reported 1993 speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the anchorman denounced the "shameful" state of broadcast journalism and challenged the industry to avoid the pitfalls of confusing news with entertainment.
"Our reputations have been reduced, our credibility cracked, justifiably," Rather told news directors gathered for a Miami convention. "This has happened because too often for too long we have answered to the worst, not the best, within ourselves and within our audience. We are less because of this. Our audience is less, and so is our country."
A dedicated champion of journalistic integrity, Rather has never failed to credit Sam Houston State for providing him with the values and basic tools to ply his craft.
With his Nov. 25 visit, the newsman "is returning to the place where he learned these lessons for himself for the first time," said Bill Madison, Rather's senior assistant at CBS.
While a student at Sam Houston State, Rather fell under the tutelage of Hugh Cunningham, a news writing instructor who emphasized to students the importance of ethical journalistic behavior.
According to Madison, Rather sees his ethics talks as a continuation of the mission set down by Cunningham, a man with whom Rather has kept a life-long friendship.
It was also while attending Sam Houston State, that Rather embarked on what would become an outstanding journalistic career. In 1950 he landed a reporting position with the Associated Press. He went on to report for United Press International, KSAM Radio in Huntsville, KTRH Radio in Houston and the Houston Chronicle.
Before joining CBS News in 1962, Rather was news director of KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston. Since 1981, he has been anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News."
Throughout his 34 years with CBS, Rather has kept Americans abreast of local and international events that have shaped the national conscience. His sharp instinct and probing style have illuminated key events of the last three decades. While working for CBS, Rather has covered such milestone events as the civil rights struggle, the Kennedy assassination, the war in Vietnam and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
In addition to anchoring the evening news, Rather fronts the "48 Hours" news magazine program on CBS and contributes regularly to CBS News Radio broadcasts.
He is also the author of four best-selling books--"The Camera Never Blinks," "The Palace Guard," "I Remember," and "The Camera Never Blinks Twice."
Rather's upcoming address to journalism students will offer the veteran newsman a chance to impart some of the wisdom he as gained from his professional pursuits.
The Nov. 25-26 lectures will probably be more philosophical than pragmatic, Madison said. They will incorporate ethical tenets established long ago by both Classic and Enlightenment philosophers.
"Certainly, the presentation will be concerned with journalists' doing the right thing," he said. However, "the lecture is going to be more tailored towards students who are not yet professional journalists than any other speech on the subject he has ever given."
The two-part program begins in Huntsville at 11 a.m. Nov. 25 in the Killinger Auditorium at SHSU's Criminal Justice Center. This first lecture will be transmitted live to an audience in the LBJ Room located on the fifth floor of UT's Communication Building in Austin.
On Nov. 26, Rather's second lecture will be broadcast live at 11 a.m. from UT. The Austin lecture, originating from the LBJ Room, can be viewed in SHSU's Killinger Auditorium.
Though aimed at journalism students, the program should be of interest to anyone curious about the news reporting process, said Don Richardson, chair of SHSU's Department of Public Communication and event organizer. Anyone concerned about the current state of journalistic integrity in America, he said, is invited to attend the free two-day event.