Dan, give somebody else a chance

November 29, 2003

Here’s a New York Times profile of Dan Rather, who’s hanging on to that anchor desk like it’s the only thing keeping him alive.

At 72, Mr. Rather is eight years older than Walter Cronkite was when he left the CBS anchor desk, and nine years older than Mr. Brokaw is now. Though his hold on one of the most prominent jobs in journalism remains safe for the immediate future, the phone call that Mr. Rather so obviously dreads ? the one telling him it is time to step aside ? could well come next year, several people inside the network say. In the meantime, Mr. Rather continues to work tirelessly to stave off the inevitable changing of the guard among the network news anchors.

Rather, along with Mike Wallace and Andy Rooney, are three guys I will unashamedly call Old and In The Way. I respect the hell out of all the great work they’ve done, but every time I see them on TV I think about all the newsies at CBS who haven’t gotten their shot because certain TV news personalities have had no concept of enough is enough.

I realize that in the case of “60 Minutes,” the old-timers are one of the reasons why the show has an audience. Could be there’s no show without ’em. And there’s the “I fought like hell for this job and I won’t just hand it over” mentality of ambitious people.

People in TV news are reconciled that there’s little point in aspiring to the anchor desk, I suppose. And given the nature of the job — kinda boring compared to the fun of shoe-leather reporting and producing — maybe there’s no point in my fretting over other people’s frustrations. I just know that if I were in TV news, it’d be just one more reason to think about a more rewarding line of work.

The next Peter Jennings might not be patient enough to wait 25 years for the job to come open.

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