Out with the old — and in with the old.
CBS announced yesterday it will temporarily replace “CBS Evening News” anchorman Dan Rather with “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer. Both are 30-year veterans of CBS.
Mr. Schieffer begins his new role March 10, a day after Mr. Rather steps down as anchor but continues as an investigative correspondent.
CBS News President Andrew Heyward said Mr. Schieffer will be the “interim anchor” for “CBS Evening News” for a “short transition period” until the broadcast adopts a new format.
“Naming Schieffer as interim anchor is good as a conciliatory gesture. He’s been more willing to admit to liberal bias or unfairness at CBS. But this is not a final step toward restoring CBS credibility,” said Matthew Sheffield of Ratherbiased.com, one of the Web logs that initially revealed Mr. Rather’s use of forged documents in the Sept. 8 broadcast.
“CBS will have to make an effort to get a more ideologically diverse staff to get viewers back who are dissatisfied with the liberal bias which has pervaded CBS for a long time,” Mr. Sheffield said.
CBS has been squirming in the public eye since Mr. Rather lost credibility by using forged documents in a “60 Minutes II” broadcast last fall that accused President Bush of compromising his Vietnam-era National Guard duty. In the aftermath, Mr. Rather announced plans to relinquish his anchor chair, and CBS ceremoniously fired four news executives after issuing a lengthy internal review.
Others are critical of Mr. Schieffer. Tim Graham of the Alexandria-based Media Research Center called him “Dan Rather’s echo” after the newsman delivered glowing reports about Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry during the presidential conventions and debates last year.
But hope springs eternal, and ideas for new formats for “CBS Evening News” abound.
Among other proposals, Mr. Heyward is considering an ensemble cast of correspondents to replace the lone anchorman format — an entrenched tradition that has been undermined in recent years by the eager multiple news hosts of 24-hour cable.
The “CBS Evening News” broadcast — third in the ratings behind the ABC and NBC versions — has much riding on the choice, which has attracted the close interest of CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves.
The “supreme anchor … isn’t a suitable model anymore,” Mr. Moonves told an assembly of TV critics in mid-January.
“I would have suggested Ed Bradley as a replacement. The choice of Bob Schieffer is very predictable, very safe. CBS needed someone who wouldn’t step on any successors’ toes,” said Andrew Tyndall, author of the weekly Tyndall Report, a New York-based industry analysis of network news.
“But the timing of all this talk of multiple anchors and so forth is just Les Moonves’ way of drawing public attention away from their big internal review,” Mr. Tyndall said.
“CBS has known for five years that Rather was going to resign sooner or later. They’ve been talking about this for some time, I suspect,” he said.