Rather signs off to the sound of score-settling

CBS News executives are bracing themselves for an awkward changing of the guard tomorrow night, when the veteran news anchor Dan Rather, arguably the most experienced newsman in America, makes his last appearance after 24 years in the chair of the network's flagship evening news programme.

The transition will not be smooth - no permanent successor has yet been appointed - nor are recent circumstances allowing him to bow out with much grace. Rather, a veteran of stories dating back to the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963, is departing as much a villain as a hero.

Critics of Rather, 73, who have long accused him of liberal bias, will cheer to see him go. But for his admirers, there is sadness. His 40-year career at CBS has been clouded by one mistake: a presidential campaign segment aired last September on 60 Minutes Wednesday, a news magazine.

The story, presented by Rather, trumpeted evidence that President Bush received preferential treatment to shirk National Guard duty during the Vietnam era. Documents on which it was based were quickly revealed to be forged. For days, CBS and Rather took a defensive stance but eventually an internal report condemned the segment. Three senior staffers were fired or resigned and Rather's reputation was badly tarnished.

Laced through the atmosphere of regret is the widely accepted truth that CBS News is not what it used to be, especially in the days of Rather's predecessor, Walter Cronkite. For several years now, the CBS Evening News has lagged in third place behind NBC and ABC in the ratings. Its network of foreign bureaux is a shadow of its former self.

The low point for Rather may have come with a profile in The New Yorker magazine last week by the respected media observer Ken Auletta, which included uncharitable remarks from other CBS veterans. Cronkite, 88, said he didn't like to watch Rather and usually chose the competition and Mike Wallace, another old hand on 60 Minutes, tartly described Rather as "uptight" and "occasionally contrived".

The network is doing its best to give Rather a grand send-off. His last appearance will be followed by an hour-long primetime special recalling all the stories that he has reported. Doubtless, it will emphasise what Rather himself is most proud of: that instead of simply presenting world events from the studio he often took the programme on the road, playing reporter as much as presenter.

"Morale is not very good right now," conceded Bob Schieffer, another CBS veteran who will take over from Rather on Thursday, until the bosses have decided what to do with the news show in the longer run. Acknowledging that milk was spilt with the Bush story, Schieffer said: "Our credibility was hurt. But we've got to move on."

For Rather, who remains on the payroll at 60 Minutes, there is no pretending that the Guard fiasco didn't happen. "He's 73 years old," Auletta noted after writing his piece. "He's spent a life in which he's tried to be noble.

"He tried to treat journalism as a public calling and, as he said, speak truth to power. Is that all going to get washed away by the events of 8 September [when the Guard story aired]? Anyone would worry about that and he is."

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?