Dan Rather Ending Newscast with Word His Pet Word ‘Courage’
NEW YORK (AP) _ If Americans stop saying good bye, peace or ciao and start saying ″courage,″ trend-setting anchorman Dan Rather is responsible.
The man who made V-neck sweaters fashionable on the air has been ending his dinnertime newscast all week with his own down-home pet word, ″courage.″ Except on Wednesday night, when he followed Bill Moyers’ report on the Texas- Mexico border with the Spanish version, ″coraje.″
″Don’t overanalyze it. There’s no deep, hidden meaning,″ Rather said Thursday before he planned to sign off another ″CBS Evening News″ with ″courage.″ ″It’s a greeting and salutation that I’ve been using with friends for years. It’s not a preachment. I just like the sound of the word.″
At CBS, he’s a minority of one. ″I’m the only one who likes it,″ Rather admitted, noting that the strongest reaction was from one executive who wondered if he could talk the anchorman out of his new-fangled signoff. ″My answer was a respectful ’nope,‴ Rather said.
Rather returned to his native Texas for an August vacation and thought about starting a new post-Labor Day TV season by making one of his favorite words part of a new, although not necessarily permanent, signature. He occasionally had used it on CBS radio broadcasts in the 1970s.
″It feels right to me and I think the audience will be comfortable with it,″ he said.
He said he hadn’t received any viewer response in New York, but believed that two phone calls came in elsewhere. ″They said they liked the ’courage.‴
Rather said he went too far with Wednesday’s ″corajo,″ which could have left some viewers scratching their heads.
″It was an ill-advised lark,″ he said.
Howard Stringer, CBS News’ executive vice president, was asked his opinion of the signoff. ″I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole,″ he said before adding: ″It’s his closing. It’s his right.″
With the once-dominant ″Evening News″ ratings slipping the past year and the newscast even finding itself in third place several times this summer, some CBS News executives said privately that Rather may have become too intense on the air.
Tom Bettag, who became executive producer of ″Evening News″ last spring, said recently that he was trying to make Rather more comfortable by cutting out the cutesy ″bumpers″ that herald upcoming stories. Now Rather reads his own coming attractions.
″My feeling is never vanilla,″ Rather said. ″I hope we never reach the point where we’re afraid to try new things.″
Rather’s previous salutation was: ″For CBS News, Dan Rather. Thank you for joining us. Good night.″ This week, he added ″courage″ before the ″Good night.″
Over on ABC, Peter Jennings regularly says: ″That’s our report on ‘World News Tonight.’ I’m Peter Jennings. Good night.″ NBC’s signature is: ″That’s ‘Nightly News’ for Thursday. I’m Tom Brokaw. I’ll see you tomorrow night.″
Walter Cronkite, Rather’s predecessor, made ″and that’s the way it is″ an American classic. CBS’ legendary correspondent Edward R. Murrow used to close with ″Good night and good luck.″
But it’s safe to say that Rather has found something completely different.