Dan Rather to Leave 'CBS Evening News'

Dan Rather announced today he will step down as anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News" on March 9 -- 24 years to the day after his first broadcast as the network's anchor.

Rather will stay with CBS News, working full time as a correspondent for both editions of "60 Minutes," and taking on other assignments as well.

"I have been lucky and blessed over these years to have what is, to me, the best job in the world and to have it at CBS News," Rather said. "Along the way, I've had the honor of working with some of the most talented, dedicated professionals in the world, and I'm appreciative of the opportunity to continue doing so in the years ahead."

He and the network began discussing his future during the summer, he said, adding that he looks forward to getting back to working as an investigative reporter full time.

"Dan's 24 years at the 'CBS Evening News' is the longest run of any evening news anchor in history and is a singular achievement in broadcast journalism," Leslie Moonves, CBS chairman and co-president and co-chief operating officer of CBS parent Viacom said in a statement.

"He has been an eyewitness to the most important events for more than 40 years and played a crucial role in keeping the American public informed about those events and their larger significance," he said. "We congratulate him on all he has accomplished and look forward to the future."

Rather, 73, worked his first broadcast as anchor of "CBS Evening News" on March 9, 1981, when he took over from broadcasting legend Walter Cronkite, and has been with the network since 1962.

In addition to his work in television, Rather has written numerous books, including, most recently, "The American Dream," which was published in 2001.

Before joining CBS in 1962, Rather worked as a reporter for The Associated Press and then for United Press International in his native Texas. At the same time, he got into broadcasting, working for radio and television stations in Texas throughout the 1950s.

His voice, lightly inflected with a Texas accent, and his homespun manner brought him success as an anchor, but over the years he has also found himself the center of controversy.

The announcement that he will step down comes months after he and CBS News came under fire for a report on "60 Minutes II" that questioned President Bush's service in the Texas National Guard. The report, which aired Sept. 8 during the heated presidential campaign, was based on memos that cast doubt on Bush's service.

Immediately after the report aired, critics pointed to indications the documents had been forged. After initially defending the report, Rather said CBS could not prove the authenticity of the documents and made an on-air apology to viewers.

CBS did not mention the controversy in today's announcement.

In 2001, Rather apologized for attending a Democratic Party fund-raiser in Austin, Texas, calling it a "serious mistake." He said at the time that he knew it was a political event but was unaware it was a fund-raiser until he got there.

"No one believes more strongly in CBS News standards than I do, and I have let those standards down," Rather said in a statement at the time.

He also became the butt of jokes and inspired a song by the rock group R.E.M., when, in 1986, he said that a man stopped him as he was walking home in Manhattan and shouted "Kenneth, what's the frequency?" before beating him up.

Rather is the second of the three network anchors this year to announce they would leave the post. Tom Brokaw, 64, anchor of NBC's "Nightly News" announced in June that he would step down Dec. 1.

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