Thursday, March 10, 2005

Soundbytes: Goodnight, Dan

Photo via CBS News

West 57th Street is Manhattan's television row. At 10th Avenue is King World and Inside Edition, half an avenue down is the same studio where Chris Rock taped his HBO show. But the prestige address on West 57th is the southwest corner at 10th, specifically 524 West. The large white and red buildings anchor much of the block. This is CBS News, where I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Rather in 2000 and 2001.

At the time, I wasn't working at CBS Evening News, but for one of the shows that was taping at CBS Productions (local news is also taped here, along with 60 Minutes, some HBO shows and other programming). But yours truly wore his CBS badge proudly—all the way to and from the A train stop at 8th Ave. (This was before my next move to the other, larger network.) Every day, I'd walk by the large studio on the first floor and see all the Evening News people, looking oh-so-busy and super-serious.

Dan was always around. Early mornings, late nights, saw him at all times of the day and night.

My edit sessions were often scheduled overnights, and my start time was 2200 or 2400hrs. I'm walking in, Dan is walking out. "Hey, how are you!" he cried out. "What's good today?" he asked other times. Always friendly, always talkative, never too good to ignore a low-level producer new to New York City. Sometimes he would wink, or give a quick salute.

Occasionally we rubbed shoulders in the basement cafeteria, or the deli across the street. "What division are you in?" he asked me once, and I told him. "Oh, you have to get out of there, " he laughed. "You want to work on the big show, where everything happens. I love it!" His enthusiasm was infective, and it was obvious that he meant exactly what he said. I took his advice and returned to network news, albeit at another address.

On Wednesday night, Rather signed off from his anchor chair, 24 years to the day he inherited it from Walter Cronkite. Hopefully, his legacy will be more than his role in that discredited 60 Minutes report on President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era record. Dan was a great newsman. He asked questions, he followed stories, he made mistakes. Rather's news philosophy reflected his personal style: he was tough, engaging, and unafraid to ask questions.

That will be my lasting impressions. Tough, engaging, but always a wink and smile for his fellow man.

Rather Signs Off: E!Online
CBS News