Bob Schieffer stood tall next to his anchor desk and engaged in a brief conversation with correspondents in the field to open his first broadcast as interim anchor of the CBS Evening News.
CBS expects him on the job for at least three months, until top executive Leslie Moonves names a replacement — or two.
Not only did viewers to the CBS Evening News see a different face — though "not exactly a new face," as Schieffer admitted with a chuckle — at the anchor desk, but they saw a more direct interaction between anchor and reporter. Some correspondents spoke with Schieffer directly during their broadcast, and others broke their segments up, splicing interviews with field broadcasts and in-studio explanatory reports.
Schieffer closed his broadcast by thanking his friend and colleague Dan Rather for "his love of the news" and "fierce determination and courage."
He called the anchor job a "daunting task," but one he accepted because CBS has a "proud tradition and a terrific news team."
On Rather's final night at the helm, his broadcast topped ratings among the three major network evening newscasts Wednesday. In recent years, CBS has usually finished third.
Rather topped the ratings for several years after taking over from Walter Cronkite, before being eclipsed first by ABC's Peter Jennings then NBC's Tom Brokaw.
CBS averaged a 7.3 rating among the top 56 markets in the country, Nielsen said.
The following is the text of Schieffer's first sign off for CBS Evening News.
Finally, tonight we begin
Only a very few people have held this job, among them Walter Cronkite, who was my hero when I was a young reporter — and Dan Rather, my friend for 40 years.
It is an honor to be asked to follow them.
Dan will be remembered for the remarkable body of work he has compiled over four decades, but I'll remember him for his love of the news and the fierce determination and courage to go wherever the news was breaking. I wish him the very best. This is a daunting assignment, but I accept it because we have a proud tradition and a terrific news team.
My friend, the great Watergate reporter Bob Woodward was asked the other day what his mindset was when he and his partner, Carl Bernstein, embarked on covering that important story.
Woodward said, "we didn't have an agenda and we didn't know how it would end. We were just trying to find out what happened."
That's what we'll try to do — find out what happened and tell you about it in clear and concise language.
If we do that — and do it well — you'll take it from there.
I'm not exactly a new face. Many of you have known and trusted me over the years. I take that as a high compliment and I promise you this, I'll never take that trust for granted.
That's the news. We'll see you right here tomorrow.
A Texan like Rather, Schieffer has been his right-hand man on Washington stories, and has covered Washington for 30 years. Schieffer has led "Face the Nation" since 1991, making it competitive for second place behind NBC's dominant "Meet the Press."
Shieffer has been called broadcast journalism's most experienced Washington reporter — and he's spent many days in Rather's seat already. He anchored the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" for 20 years until 1996. Schieffer joined CBS News in 1969 and has been chief Washington correspondent since 1982.
By Christine Lagorio
Copyright 2005 CBS. All rights reserved.