Ron Schara: Hunters were already suspicious about CBS' Rather
Ron Schara Minneapolis Star Tribune
September 26, 2004 RON0926
Dan Rather's recent fall from journalistic grace happened -- for some of us -- a long time ago.
The evening of Sept. 5, 1975, to be exact.
On that day, a much younger and very dashing Dan Rather was the host of a CBS special entitled "Guns of Autumn."
As some of us gathered that night to watch, those of us who called ourselves hunters were both proud to be a prime time subject (a mighty rare event) but also apprehensive about what dirty underwear a national network like CBS News, the home of heroes like Edward R. Murrow, might uncover about hunting, or those who call themselves hunters.
But back then, I trusted Dan Rather, the journalist. He'd be fair, I figured. Being a proud Texan, Rather would understand a bad seed or two shows up in any field of fine cotton and he'd keep the pros and cons as balanced as a cowboy on a bucking bronc.
I was wrong; the cowboy hit the dirt.
When the program ended, I realized Dan Rather had lent his journalistic credibility to a hatchet job on America's hunters.
"Guns of Autumn" wasn't an examination of hunting; it was largely a one-hour condemnation of hunting.
I remember I kept waiting to hear interviews from knowledgeable and thoughtful resource leaders, who would tell America about the many and historic conservation achievements of hunters. I wanted Americans to know that America's wildlife management programs are the best in the world, thanks largely to the hunting fraternity.
I was waiting for Rather to explore the spirit and soul of folks who kill their own meat while most Americans can only stalk the meat counter.
It never happened.
Instead, "Guns of Autumn" became a prime time embarrassment to hunters from Maine to Washington. A New York Times reviewer the next day said "Guns of Autumn" was like a television program that wanted to explore the human love story but filmed it all in a whorehouse.
For Dan Rather, perhaps it was the best little whorehouse in Texas.
While Rather today is apologizing for his lack of judgement over the fake Bush documents, I'm not expecting any "I'm sorry" for the "Guns of Autumn" show.
A hunter in America today has learned not to expect much positive coverage of so-called blood sports. Hunters mostly make the 10 o'clock news these days if they shoot somebody or themselves. If they save a wetland or preserve a prairie or teach a kid to be safe with a gun ... well, who cares?
Dan Rather and CBS News didn't.
Ron Schara is at firstname.lastname@example.org