Dan Rather Tells Us About The Time He Used Heroin

Business Insider

View photo

.
Dan Rather Vivian Giang

Vivian Giang / Business Insider

Me with Dan Rather in 2011.

Dan Rather is a hero to many in the news industry — including myself — for his determination to do anything to get the story.

The most famous example is probably when he tied himself to a tree during a hurricane in 1961 — a stunt that landed him a job at CBS New York.

But that's not the most daring thing he's done.

When I interviewed Rather in my last semester at journalism school, he told me about the time he used heroin for a story.

Rather previously discussed this incident in an interview with Cliff Jahr at the magazine Ladies' Home Journal in the 1980s.

During our interview, I asked Rather about his choice to take such a drastic step for a story. He paused, then said, "I made the mistake of ever talking about it." 

He was willing to open up to me about his experience. I've posted a transcript with his permission, edited slightly for clarity:

"I was working in radio in Houston in 1956 and 1957 and it's hard for people below a certain age to understand that drugs were not a problem at the time ... very little was known by most people about recreational drugs. 

A group of musicians came to Houston and they were arrested for heroin [possession]. I had never heard of heroin. In fact, on the radio later, I pronounced it [wrong]. ... Remember this was in the '50s. Houston was not the big city it is now.

I knew a lot of police officers. They said they had arrested these people for heroin. I had no idea what it was ... [the police] described it to me as best as they knew from what people told them. 

So I said it would be a good story to get some heroin — [though] I had no idea how to get it — and then describe how you feel. And so I did that with the help of the police in the police station. Hard to imagine these days, but I knew these guys pretty well.

So they injected me at the police station and I made notes as best as I could have, of what the effects were. And we produced a series of 'This is what heroin is; This is why people take it; This is what you experience while you're under the influence; This is why it's dangerous.'

It was no big deal, but it got to be a big deal. It didn't get a lot of attention at the time. That was that. 

I had never really thought about it ... that was until a magazine interview in the 1980s..."

Rather's willingness to take risks — and to take responsibility for his actions — generated controversy, but they won him a lot of respect too. To stand out in the crowd of talent, you need to be fearless and, sometimes, take the off beaten path.

And that's the reason why he was the face of CBS News for decades.

Don't miss: 



More From Business Insider

Rates

View Comments (0)