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CBS News Bids Dan Rather Farewell

Jun 20, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Dan Rather ended his 44 year career at CBS News with a parting shot at his employer for not living up to its “obligation to allow me to do substantive work there.”

That followed an announcement by CBS News that the man who was the network’s lead anchor for 24 years is officially leaving. A Rather farewell segment is scheduled to air on tonight’s “Evening News” and a primetime special on Mr. Rather’s career is to be broadcast sometime this fall, the network said Tuesday.

In response to the network’s announcement, Rather, 74, issued a statement saying “CBS had offered me only a future with only and office but no assignments, [and] it just isn’t in me to sit around doing nothing. So I will do the work I love elsewhere, and I look forward to sharing details about that soon.”

Mr. Rather has said he is considering anchoring and producing a weekly news program for Mark Cuban’s HDNet. More definitive word about what Mr. Rather will do may come in the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Rather’s departure and the arrival of former “Today” co-anchor Katie Couric as the new anchor of “CBS Evening News” mark a changing of the guard at the network, which has lost much of the luster of its early days, when Edward R. Murrow set its journalistic standards.

Mr. Rather’s prospects at CBS dimmed after he ran a flawed story about President George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service on “60 Minutes” II in 2004. Morale at the network drooped after an investigation into the story led to the exit of four CBS News producers and executives.

CBS News’ Tuesday press release was starkly headlined “Dan Rather to Leave CBS News.” In it, CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus acknowledged Mr. Rather’s long contribution to CBS News.

“Of all the famous names associated with CBS News,” Mr. McManus said, “the biggest and brightest on the marquee are Murrow, Cronkite and Rather. With the utmost respect, we mark the extraordinary and singular role Dan has played in writing the script of not only CBS News, but of broadcast journalism. There will always be a part of Dan Rather at CBS News. He is truly a ‘reporter’s reporter,’ and he has helped to train several generations of broadcast journalists. His legacy cannot be replicated.”

Mr. McManus inherited the news division last year from predecessor Andrew Heyward and vowed to turn CBS News into a winning news organization again.

Leslie Moonves, the CBS Corp. president and CEO who wooed Ms. Couric to lead the evening news broadcast, credited Rather with having “an unwavering desire to tell the story to the American public.”

The network’s announcement said that CBS News also will make a contribution to the native Texan’s alma mater, now called Sam Houston State University.

“I leave CBS News with tremendous memories,” Mr. Rather said in his statement. “But I leave now most of all with the desire to once again do regular, meaningful reporting. As I go about deciding where and with whom that can best be done, I want to say how grateful I am to have worked with so many outstanding CBS men and women over the years.”

Mr. Rather capped his statement by saying the press pays too much attention to anchors’ personalities and their career ups and downs. He called for more discussion of larger issues such as freedom of the press and the corporatization of news.