Customer Reviews: Lone Star: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Dan Rather
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on September 15, 2006
Everybody knows the name of Dan Rather, the reporter who appeared on the radar screen at JFK's assassination and rose to CBS News favored son status reporting from Vietnam, the White House, hurricane lamp posts, the CBS News anchor chair and virtually every hot spot around the world, but most people have never heard of Alan Weisman, the author of "LONE STAR: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Dan Rather."

For those in the broadcast news business, Alan Weisman -- hands down -- is the finest producer who ever walked the halls of CBS News. There is no contest here. Intelligent, industrious, creative, insightful, witty, thorough and totally uncompromising, over the years he probably irritated as many higher-ups as he created awestruck fans in the trenches.

Weisman decided up front his book would be a professional-only work. He does not engage in petty gossip about Dan Rather. Instead he chooses to focus on more serious matters - on the man and the institution which he shaped and which in turn shaped him. It is a fascinating inside look, a view available only through the prism of an experienced insider.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to take the tour in the hands of a total professional.
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on May 10, 2007
For anyone who watched Dan Rather with any regularity, this is definitely an interesting and insightful book about the man and the behind-the-scenes workings of CBS. From growing up in Texas to covering Vietnam to his final days in the anchor chair, you get a look at Dan Rather the man versus Dan Rather the reporter/anchor, and not all of it is favorable. Weisman's account of things is pretty fair to all parties involved, shows multiple viewpoints and allows the reader to make their own judgements. Of particular interest is his accounts of what went on at CBS when the corporate structures were changed and how it affected Rather. The only real problem I have with this book is that it seems like it is really only giving a summary of Rather's life instead of a detailed account. Otherwise, I highly recommend it.
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on November 3, 2010
Dan Rather has always been a gutsy journalist never afraid to report what he sees as he sees it. I remember him from back in the Nixon era when he exchanged jabs with Nixon, clearly articulate and to the point. I watched him every night asthe News Anchor for CBS and feel he was used as a scapegoat in the Bush story that got him fired.
CBS is paying with low ratings with Katie Couric. It always comes back around.
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on September 18, 2006
Excellent glimse inside of the workings of CBS News and the legendary Dan Rather.
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on November 3, 2014
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on September 28, 2006
This book is a quick read. The author often refers to Rather's previous book entitled The Camera Never Blinks in addition to a Playboy interview. Most of the book is about the shenanigans that take place in network television and the egos and insecurities of those involved including the network announcers. I didn't find the book to be a keeper for my library.
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on September 9, 2006
If there's one thing I'd really like to read -- I'm serious, mind you -- it's an insightful, deeply researched Dan Rather biography. There's probably no more enigmatic or divisive figure in late 20th century American journalism.

After inhaling Alan Weisman's thin and cursorily researched "Lone Star," I want that book more than ever.

For your $25.95 you get maybe eight good, if really catty, stories of control-obsessed Dan's backstage politicking at CBS News -- usually about freezing out, or wrecking the careers of, other correspondents and producers he allegedly found disloyal or threatening. That stuff, if true, goes a long way to explaining Dan's own chilly, no-flowers exit from CBS in 2006. (Live by the sword, die by the sword.)

But Weisman (an old CBS News off-air hand) creates no real insight. You want to know why Dan is who he is and you never find out. It's not enough to take the reader's money and then conclude, well, it's a mystery. I can do that on my own.

Dan's professional conduct was clearly somehow cued by his modest Texas roots and the fish-out-of-water experience of landing among all those smirking Eastern journalism elites. But Weisman talks directly to nobody from Dan's early days; those pages are based almost entirely on clips ripped from Dan's own earlier memoirs, "I Remember" and "The Camera Never Blinks Twice," which Rather students will already know.

Weisman develops no clear position on Dan. Was he a conscientious heir to Ed Murrow, an insecure egotist and air hog, a nonpareil street reporter, a vicious character assassin, or a Macbeth-scale tragic figure? Weisman ticks "all of the above," and gives us editorial dribs and drabs in support of all these facets and more, but a coherent portrait never emerges. Perhaps this is because Weisman's original sourcing is mostly interviews with high-ranking members of the smirking media elites themselves, past and present -- each with their own agenda and axes to grind. Weisman veers between defending Rather's motives and relating awful secondhand stories about him. He zips past the inevitable Nixon/Rather parallels, saying too much has already been said about them; well, maybe in the bars he hangs out at. But to many of the rest of us a twin-track psychological profile of the tortured, insecure, angry president and the tortured, terminally uncomfortable anchorman would be really interesting.

Weisman isn't one for such detail, or a leisurely/scholarly discussion of anything, really. At only 221 pages of wide-spaced type, less 16 pages of unnecessary photos, "Lone Star" takes one medium-length plane flight to knock off. The author's broadcast newswriting background shows. In TV a serious script runs about ten sentences, so any book-length wordcount is a Herculean effort for a TV guy. But it feels more like a long magazine piece, only some accounts of crucial moments in Dan's career make no sense and would have been better edited at Esquire or Vanity Fair. How exactly did Dan relay his JFK-is-dead scoop to New York on November 22, 1963? What exactly was the sequence of events when Dan left the Evening News set in Miami in 1987? What exactly did Dan do during the four days it took to produce the fateful Memogate story in 2004? You can read "Lone Star"'s accounts very carefully and still be confused. There's far too little chronological detail -- basic reportage, ironically, is too often missing. As is Dan himself. He did not cooperate with this project. Probably wisely.

Like Johnny Carson, Rather dominated broadcast television for a whole era but remained a tantalizing cipher. Nothing changes after "Lone Star." Bill Zehme's upcoming Carson bio should be revelatory, given Zehme's style and insight. Maybe he should tackle Dan next. Weisman leaves a lot of work to be done. Dan, if you read this -- wouldn't Zehme be the man?
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