LIANE HANSEN, host:
Dan Rather's departure from CBS followed his narration of a poorly sourced story about President Bush's National Guard service.
Now, Rather has filed a $70-million lawsuit against his former employer. He says the network made him a scapegoat and denied him airtime and violation of his contract. CBS deems the suit without merit.
NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has these reflections.
DANIEL SCHORR: I must say that if denial of airtime has become a subject for litigation, I can see a big class action suit on behalf of unhappy anchors.
In any event, I have declined media request that I comment on Dan Rather's lawsuit. After all, I left CBS in 1976 with some hard feelings on both sides.
But WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY has asked for my thoughts. And I would like to make one point. It has to do with the role of the anchor who is often paid millions of dollars less for reporting skills than full of charisma. I hope I'm not revealing a trade secret here but anchors read from a marvelous invention called the teleprompter. They're instructed to glance down every few minutes to create the impression that they're checking their notes, which may not be there at all.
Some anchors insist on having the title of managing editor in their contracts to create the impression that they are working reporters. It's a myth.
And so, when Dan Rather find himself in trouble for narrating the story about President Bush's National Guard record, he could have taken the easy way out. He could have said that he was the victim of a sloppily reported script. But Rather couldn't bring himself to say essentially, don't blame me, blame my writers, because that would have exposed the whole omnipotent anchor charade.
This past week on "Larry King Live" on CNN, Rather said he played only a supervisory role in the story, although Josh Howard, one of the fired producers, had previously said, Rather played a more active role.
Be that as it may, perhaps, it's time to level with people. The anchor, even if called managing editor, is only the public face of a news collection enterprise. Maybe the news guys should be introduced as follows. This is the "CBS Evening News" read by insert name of anchor, researched, reported, written, edited by actual journalists.
If we can get some honesty about how television newscasts come to be, maybe some good will come out of this yet. Meanwhile, the struggle for airtime goes on.
This is Daniel Schorr.
HANSEN: And this is NPR News.