Still Required at CBS News? To Say Dan Rather Is "Great Figure" In CBS History?

January 9th, 2006 5:00 PM

CBS started its "Public Eye" weblog in the wake of the Dan Rather fake-memo fiasco as "an opportunity for our audience to hold CBS News more publicly accountable." But the interview Vaughn Ververs posted today with new "Evening News" executive producer Rome Hartman sends an odd signal. Hartman feels compelled (or perhaps sincerely believes, however odd that sounds) to state than Dan Rather remains one of "the great figures of the [CBS] news division." Is this really a "new era" at CBS?

This line came as Ververs tiptoed around CBS's plans to name a new anchorman to replace interim man Bob Schieffer. "We’ve all seen the stories speculating about who might be the next anchor of the 'Evening News.' Without going into personalities, how important is that position in today’s environment?"

Hartman replied: "I think it’s really important because that person is, to a greater degree than anyone else, the face of the broadcast and I think people care about not just the content of the stories but who they get their news from. I do think it’s a big deal. Whether it’s more or less important than it used to be, I don’t know. When I think about CBS News, my first thought is about the quality and vibrancy of the reporting. But I also think about Walter Cronkite, I think about Edward R. Murrow, I think about Dan Rather, these are the great figures of the news division. And I think about Bob Schieffer now. The tenor and the tone and just the way you kind of receive your news changes depending on who the anchor is.”

FYI, Ververs also asked about media critics: "There is no shortage of media criticism these days, especially in the blogosphere, from charges of ideological bias to claims of corporate bias. How much do you pay attention to all of that, how much should media organizations care about it and how does it impact your thinking?"

Hartman answered diplomatically, first to the journalists on the inside, then to the critics on the outside: “If I spent all day reading the blogs about the news media, I wouldn’t have time to put a show together. It’s a huge landscape. I think we need to be aware of what people think of us, not just in the blogosphere but all over the place. We need to be cognizant of the way we’re perceived and certainly when there are substantive questions raised, either about our stories or questions of bias or so forth, we need to pay attention to them, take them seriously and see if there’s any substance there. It would be silly to dismiss that.”