Neither Dan Rather nor CBS gets it.

There’s nothing like a divorce to bring out the worst in someone. You can go into it thinking it will work out one way and before you know it, things get ugly and people don’t do what one would expect them to do.
That’s the case with CBS divorcing Dan Rather. Yah, it came to a head over the Bush/National Guard story but it had been building long before that. The bizarre sign-offs (Courage), the bizarre incidents (what’s the frequency Kenneth?) and the bizarre behavior (stepping off set after the tennis tournament ran over). Personally, I found Dan to be stiff and hard to watch on the air. I grew tired of his homespun country witticisms during election coverage. But he was a good reporter and did some great work. He wanted to make it 25 years on the anchor desk at CBS before he stepped down. I could see what he wanted to do. The problem is, he just didn’t know when to quit or step down gracefully after that National Guard debacle.
On the other hand, CBS didn’t do itself any favors either. They had been looking for an excuse to give him the boot. The local affiliates had been screaming for years that Rather was killing them. Fortunately for the network, Rather was given enough rope to finally hang himself or at least trip himself up publicly. But then it seemed like the irresistible force and the immoveable object clashed. IMHO, CBS handled the whole thing in a rather ham-handed fashion. They made a smart move with Bob Shieffer replacing Dan, but it looked like they never had really looked down the road at a possible replacement. Nobody was being groomed to take over. There was no Brian Williams ready to step in. Yah, there was John Roberts and Scott Pelley trying for the job but in the end, it was decided they didn’t have what it took. Maybe the plan all along was to get Katie (Katherine) Couric, but that’s not the way it played out in the public eye. CBS is bragging how KC has already paid for her first year’s salary with a bump in the ratings and the publicity she’s generated and she’s not even on the air yet. But CBS almost appears to have backed into this even if in reality they were marching toward this goal.
Rather who can’t seem to figure out he’s not wanted, won’t fade into the sunset and CBS isn’t helping him much. They’ve made no bones about it that there’s no where to go and would he please leave before KC actually goes on the air.
I have no doubt that Dan wanted to go out with grace like Tom Brokaw did. But it’s too late for that, thanks to CBS and Dan Rather. The divorce is done. CBS has its trophy wife now and Dan has his memories. Neither side has that much to brag about these days.

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4 Comments on “Neither Dan Rather nor CBS gets it.”

  1. Doug Johnson Says:

    Of course you make several good points Joseph. And we have to keep the general capriciousness of the television business in mind — After all, how often do any anchors get the opporutnity to leave on their own terms?

    A bad ratings book, a new GM or news director, a “youth movement” on air, or some type of scandal (real or imagined)… even another job opportunity… All are reasons for the sudden disappearance of an on-air person.

    Sometimes we get to say goodbye. If we’ve been around long enough (and haven’t ticked off too many higher-ups), we may acutally get some kind of on-air send-off. But usually, we’re there one day, and people are left scratching their heads and asking, “where’s the Healthwatch guy..” or “where’s the guy who does that huntin’ show with Bubba Woods?”

    Dan was always the type of guy who was going to have a messy exit. News division presidents have come and gone at CBS because of their inability to “service” Dan’s ego. In a time of diminishing returns, it’s no surprise that Moonves decided to go in a completely different direction.

  2. A Former Co-Worker Says:

    I am everso intrigued to ask the question, as a former Anchor, why don’t you ask more local questions about todays terrible politics and crime in the city. Today it was announced by the station on the river and several other news orginizations that the “Dynamic Duo” Hooks Sr. and Hooks Jr. share the same hobby interest, Indictments. As a loyal reader to your blog, I am always tuning in to see what your take is on these subjects and others: Herenton and Frasier, Willingham and the Forum etc. So tell us… What do you think. Enquiring minds want to know!

  3. Joe Larkins Says:

    I was actually going to post on the indictment. I generally stay away from the political thing, but hey, you asked.
    You can find my post listed above this one.

  4. newsboyarizona Says:

    I was usually a very lonely person in the newsroom because, for years, I was the only person willing to stick up for Dan Rather. I admired the way he handled himself in Beijing when the Chinese authorities came to shut him down. On a movie junket in NYC, I met a makeup artist who said she worked with Dan. I told her to tell him I thought it was a good American. But he should consider himself lucky that he had 24 good years in the main anchor chair at CBS, particularly since during the last 10 of them, he usually found himself at the bottom of the ratings heap. Dan is not entitled to a position at CBS for perpetuity. He had a job at CBS since 1962, was witness to some of the greatest events of the 20th and 21st century, and commanded one of the most influential television broadcasts for 24 years. Now it’s time to move on.

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