Dan Rather Signs Off
The sailing hasn’t always been smooth, but there’s no doubt an era is ending as Dan Rather leaves the “CBS Evening News” anchor desk.
The much-awarded journalist leaves that role Wednesday, March 9 — 24 years to the day he assumed it. “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer then takes over on an interim basis as CBS management decides how, and with whom, it wants the program to proceed over the longer haul. Rather will stay with CBS News, returning full time to investigative reporting for the newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”
“I feel good,” Rather says about approaching the end of his nightly run. “I’ve had a very interesting several weeks of work. I went to the tsunami zone, flying out on New Year’s Eve and spending the next seven to 10 days there. I came back for the presidential inauguration, then went to Iraq for 10 days. I was particularly pleased I was able to get outside Baghdad into the so-called Triangle of Death.
“Then I covered the elections in Iraq and flew back in time for the State of the Union address. It’s the kind of work I like … grab a notebook and a pen, get a crew, and get out of the office and do some reporting.”
Rather says his time in the anchor chair has been “much, much longer than I ever believed possible when I came into the job. My strongest sense is one of humility, being able to have such a responsibility and challenge and honor for as long as I have. I’m eager to move on to a new phase of my professional life and have more command of my work time.”
Since joining CBS News in 1962, Rather has been part of history at the scenes of events such as John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Vietnam War and the clash at Tiananmen Square. Recently, he was the focus of controversy for reporting a “60 Minutes” story on President George W. Bush’s National Guard service record. Source documents were questioned; an internal examination was finalized in January, by which time Rather had announced he was leaving “CBS Evening News.” The report’s producer was fired, and three executives were asked to resign.
“Look, I can be as dumb as a brick wall about some things,” Rather claims, “but I’m smart enough to realize if you fight long enough, every fighter gets hit and sometimes knocked down. If you try to practice journalism as I have and I do, you’re gonna take your licks.
“Sometimes they hurt, but that’s a small price to pay for the tremendous satisfaction I’ve had from being able to make a living doing what I dreamed of doing. I’ve tried to pour myself into my work with passion, respect for the truth, and ethical behavior. My mantra is ‘Keep coming, keep fighting, keep trying, keep smiling.'”
Famous for his unique turns of phrase, Texas native Rather isn’t sure how his last “CBS Evening News” will reference his exit. “I hope not too much will be made of it,” he says. “I want it to be something graceful and classy, because that’s how I think of CBS News.”
Although the waters have been choppy lately, Rather reasserts his “sense of appreciation and loyalty to CBS News. I recognize some people think it’s been to a fault; I do not agree with that. I trust the people I work with, I believe in them, and I’ve tried to communicate that to every man and woman who works here. I stand by them and stand with them, and always proudly so. There’s been a whole lot more sunshine than there have been storms.”
Dan Rather Signs Off