CBS Expected to Announce Departure of Rather
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Dan Rather, the idiosyncratic Texan who was a defining presence for CBS News for more than four decades, is leaving the network for good.
As a reporter and as anchor of the CBS Evening News, he covered some of the biggest stories of our time.
NPR's David Folkenflik covers the media, and he joins us in the studio this morning. So, David, what have you learned about when Dan Rather goes?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK reporting:
Dan Rather will be leaving the network that he's been at since the early 1960s. And it's going to be a total split. No cynic cure for him with some sort of light affiliation. He'll be gone.
WERTHEIMER: This is maybe not the send-off Mr. Rather would have liked.
FOLKENFLIK: No. And, in fact, in a couple of interviews last week, he anticipated this happening sometime soon. He was rather melancholic about it. He very much wanted to write another chapter about after his departure.
He had, of course, come under great fire for the botched story in 2004 about President Bush's service record. The story relied on documents that proved not, in any way, to be authenticated. Mr. Rather was ultimately forced from the anchor chair prematurely, and he's been forced out of CBS altogether, very much against his will.
WERTHEIMER: He was talking about - or he went to 60 Minutes, and in one of those interviews you just mentioned, I read that he said they weren't giving him anything to do.
FOLKENFLIK: He's done a few stories over this last year. There was a story about whole foods, and another about ethanol and alternate fuels, but what they say is, hey, we've got a full stable here. We don't have room for you. What they're really conveying is they simply don't have room for him at the network itself.
WERTHEIMER: What do you think Dan Rather's impact on CBS was?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's easy to forget what his appeal ever was. Obviously, there are his famous aphorisms that only Rather himself comes up with, from parts of Texas no one else can identify on the map. At the same time, he's kind of a hot presence - not in the Paris Hilton sense, but he burst through he screen. He was always in the middle of his story, whether he was covering a hurricane or whether he was clashing with presidents, such as President Nixon in a famous exchange that earned him the enmity of conservatives for decades, or whether it was with Vice President Bush, back in 1988, during Mr. Bush's run for president.
So he, in some ways, was good television. He also saw himself always as a journalist and as a reporter. Many of his colleagues who admired him said that was, in some ways, his greatest drawback as he was tethered to the anchor's chair, even as he sought to be out in the field.
WERTHEIMER: What - so what happens now at CBS? They've - their new presence has already been picked.
FOLKENFLIK: That's correct. Actually, interesting, when Mr. Rather left the anchor's chair a year ago he was replaced by another Texan, a man in his late 60s; another person who had what the chairman of CBS sort of derided as a voice of God, an authoritative figure, and that's Bob Schieffer. And interestingly, the ratings shot up. Now, they've paid a lot of money, at s reportedly upwards of about $14 million a year to have Katie Couric be the new face, name, voice, of the CBS Evening News.
The interesting thing about her, of course, is she was what made NBC's Today Show such a rampant success since the early 1990s.
WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much.
FOLKENFLIK: Good to join you.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's David Folkenflik.
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