I logged another first in my reporting career last week.
Your humble correspondent was booed.
And for that honor, I must thank either my own rude behavior — or a bunch of folks with no appreciation for irony.
Here’s the scene: Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather is in Cherry Hill, giving a speech about the need for journalists to do better.
“What’s gone out of fashion is the tough question and the follow-up,” he tells an admiring audience of about 600 people at Cherry Hill’s Star Forum.
So how can I, the guy covering Rather’s remarks, just sit there?
When he finishes, I hurry to a floor mike to ask Rather about an issue that will be part of my story.
“Mr. Rather,” I say. “Great suggestions. But you left the anchor desk last year after your report questioning President Bush’s military service was discredited. Key memos could not be authenticated. Do you think the failure to ask questions then affects your credibility now?”
Rather responds with civility — if not clarity. He notes, in part, that an independent review “couldn’t determine whether the documents were authentic or not.”
Eager to please, I follow up: “The Courier-Post won’t run something if we’re not sure it’s authentic. Are you saying it’s OK . . .”
But my microphone goes dead — and the audience stirs to life.
Some people jeer. Others glare and scowl (I can now distinguish between the two). This continues outside as I call in my story.
CBS News as an institution has incorporated the lesson that Rather, and many other journalists, still haven’t learned — that news professionals cannot preach the philosophy of “tough questions” but then refuse to answer them.