A Paul Harvey radio report that a station in Norfolk, Va., had dropped Dan Rather from its lineup prompted curious calls to CBS TV affiliate WTKR there.
Turns out it was not a TV station, but Sinclair-owned WNIS(AM), a talk radio outlet (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Matt Drudge), that dropped CBS.
The station had been taking the CBS News radio feed but switched to ABC in the wake of the document debacle, in which CBS failed to adequately verify documents used to support criticisms of President George W. Bush's National Guard service.
WNIS GM Lisa Sinclair said the move came in response to listeners who said they were turning away from the CBS news at the top and bottom of the hour. "Our contract was up in February," she said, "and we decided to switch to ABC." The station has been a CBS affiliate for a dozen years. WTKR GM Frank Chebalo says that he would never give Dan the heave-ho. "It would be very difficult to get out of a network agreement," he says, "and frankly, we wouldn't want to. CBS is a very good network. They've got a little bit of PR work to do and in some ways make amends, but we're certainly behind them and don't have any plans of changing that."
But he does concede that he has received thousands of e-mails from unhappy viewers in his market, which includes a lot of military personnel (bases and shipyards). "Usually, this market is concerned with things having to do with accuracy and integrity as far as reporting. They are 'button up, button down and tell the truth.' "
A lot of the anger in the e-mails is targeted at Rather "in his leadership role," Chebalo says, but adds: "The overhelming sense from the thousands of e-mails we have gotten is that [CBS] didn't do the due dilligence, which is hard to dispute."