The Daily Texan: What advice would you give to students and young journalists?
Dan Rather: Number one is to understand at a really deep level that writing is the bedrock of the craft. If one aspires to be a television anchor, writing is the bedrock. To be successful as a journalist — and I don’t mean monetarily, but to be worthy of the name of being an American journalist — you have to dedicate yourself to a lifetime of improving your writing, no matter how good you think a writer you are now, but consciously make yourself a better writer is my beginning advice. I’m still trying to improve myself as a writer and there is plenty of room for it.
The second thing is to stay idealistic. It is very difficult, particularly in this cynical time. Be skeptical but never cynical, and keep your idealism and be assured that your early belief in journalism, when done right, counts. It matters. You can be part of something bigger than yourself and contribute, so don’t lose that idealism.
And then the final piece would be persistence. Almost everything in life in one way or another requires persistence, but journalism particularly, steady, unrelenting persistence will get you a long way, and without it, you’re not likely to make it.