Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Here's your frequency, Kenneth

I'm not sure I've ever watched the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. But I'll probably tune in (or, more specifically, tape) tonight's broadcast, since it's Rather's swan song as an evening news anchor. I love to imagine that Rather will blow a gasket and tell us what he really thinks, a la Howard Beale in the film Network, but he's probably too much of a professional for that. (Raging Red, by the way, did a much better job with the Rather-Beale comparison.)

Besides, Rather might be too busy dusting footprints off his ass. I don't know how many of you caught this (or cared about it), but Rather's predecessor, Walter Cronkite, the grand old patriarch of network news, has been killing him in the media over the past week.

First, in the New Yorker, he said Rather was playing a role more than actually delivering the news. (Sorry, I can't find a link to the article.) Then Cronkite told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the CBS Evening News might not be entrenched in third place behind NBC and ABC if Rather had been replaced by Bob Schieffer (now Rather's temporary replacement) years ago.

"So you would have been happier if Bob Schieffer would have replaced Dan Rather a while ago?" Blitzer asked.

"I would have thought so," Cronkite responded. "Certainly, if not Bob someone else."

"It surprised quite a few people at CBS and elsewhere," he continued, "that, without being able to pull up the ratings beyond third in a three-man field, that they tolerated his being there for so long."

Ouch, babe. Is Cronkite still sore about allegedly being pushed out the door by Rather when he took over the CBS anchor chair? My magic 8-ball says "all signs point to yes."

Addendum (7: 30 pm): In Tom Shales' Washington Post TV column today, one of Rather's buddies (anonymously) referred to Cronkite as "a codgerly old ass," who "stayed alive just so he could see this moment." Aw, snap!