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Newsman Dan Rather to receive lifetime achievement award at Banff media festival

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American journalist Dan Rather is receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Banff World Media Festival next week, but the seasoned newsman has no intention of calling it quits.

"As you know I still work full time and I am very reluctant to even use the phrase lifetime achievement award for fear it will be self-predicting," Rather said in a recent interview.

"This was something very nice, a good time of year and a wonderful place, so I'm honoured and pleased and hope it is not a predictor of what's ahead," the 82-year-old said with a chuckle.

The former anchor for the CBS Evening News is now managing editor and anchor of the television news magazine "Dan Rather Reports" on the cable channel AXS TV.

Rather's career, which began in 1950, includes covering the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the birth of the U.S. civil rights movement, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as well as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.

"Covering the civil rights movement in its early stages and Dr. Martin Luther King in the early 1960s changed me dramatically as a person and as a professional. Often when I think if I had to pick one thing I guess that would be it," he said from New York.

"On the other hand, when we went into Afghanistan in 1980 this was a different era just after the Soviets had invaded — being able to walk in and walk out of Afghanistan as we did at the time also is heavy in my memory as is 9-11."

Rather has a special interest in Afghanistan and has been back almost on a yearly basis since 2001. He also has developed a soft spot for Canada.

"I don't think that Americans say it often enough and that is how much I personally appreciate, and my family appreciates, the contributions Canada made in helping the United States and supporting us in the wake of 9-11 and most especially with the long, tortuous war in Afghanistan," Rather said.

"I have seen Canadian troops, I've been with Canadian troops, I've stayed with Canadian troops and I just never want to miss an opportunity to underscore my appreciation."

American troops are scheduled to begin pulling out this year. Canada's mission in Afghanistan came to an end in March.

Rather said it's still too soon to say if NATO involvement in the war-torn country was worth it.

"We don't know yet because the final chapter of this era in Afghanistan is yet to be written. It will take a while for history to judge whether it was worth it or not," he said.

"I have my doubts."

The lifetime achievement award recognizes an individual who has significantly enriched the world of entertainment with a lifetime contribution to the industry. Past honorees include Sir David Attenborough, James Burrows, William Shatner, Larry King and Christine Baranski.

The Banff World Media Festival runs June 8-11.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter.

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