CBSN

Smoothing Rather's Departure

Bob Schieffer
CBS
CBS's veteran Face the Nation host and Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer is being tapped to smooth the transition from Dan Rather's 24-year run as host of the CBS Evening News when he steps down next month.

Schieffer will serve as anchor "for a short transition period" until the broadcast is revamped, CBS News President Andrew Heyward said. Network executives are seeking to eliminate the one-man-anchor "voice of God" format in favor of a viewer-friendly setup, possibly using multiple hosts.

CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves said last month that he was strongly considering installing a multi-anchor format for the CBS Evening News.

White House Correspondent John Roberts, once viewed as a possible heir to Rather, remains in the running as a member of an ensemble cast, CBS News sources confirmed. Though executives are looking inside and outside the operation to fill the roster of possible candidates, others under consideration at CBS include Mika Brzezinski, Jim Axelrod, Russ Mitchell, Lara Logan and Thalia Assuras.

CBS is part of Viacom Inc., and trails in ratings behind NBC and ABC, which are owned by General Electric Co. and The Walt Disney Co., respectively.

The Schieffer announcement confirms that the new format won't be ready in time for Rather's exit March 9 — the 24th anniversary of when he took over from Walter Cronkite.

A Texan like Rather, the amiable Schieffer is usually his right-hand man on Washington stories. He 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.

Schieffer has covered Washington for CBS News for more than 30 years and is one of the few broadcast or print journalists to have covered all four major beats in the nation's capital — the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and Capitol Hill. He has been chief Washington correspondent since 1982 and congressional correspondent since 1989 and has covered every presidential campaign and been a floor reporter at every Democratic and Republican National Convention since 1972. He was also the moderator last fall for one of the three presidential debates between President Bush and John Kerry.

Schieffer is a member of the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame and is the recipient of the 2003 Paul White Award presented by the Radio-Television News Directors Association, which recognizes an individual's lifetime contribution to electronic journalism, as well as six Emmys and two Sigma Delta Chi Awards.

Before joining CBS News, he was a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and, in 1965, became the first reporter from a Texas newspaper to report from Vietnam. Schieffer later became news anchor at WBAP-TV Dallas/Fort Worth, a post that eventually led to his joining CBS News.

He is the author of the 2003 The New York Times bestseller, "This Just In", "What I Couldn't Tell You On TV" and "Acting President", published in 1989.

There seems little chance the evening news role would turn permanent. Moonves said last month he favored revolutionary, not evolutionary change in how the evening news does things, because of the poor ratings and the news division's National Guard scandal. Rather was faulted for his role in last fall's ill-fated story about President Bush's military service, for which the network is ousting four news division staffers.

According to the New York Post, other network news show host shake-ups are in the works. The Post reports that Ted Koppel, the host of nightline whose ABC News contract expires next year, is being considered to host the Sunday morning show This Week. But the move might only be a win-win game of musical chairs: the current host of This Week, George Stephanopoulos, is rumored to be Koppel's replacement on Nightline.