Heyward puzzled by Rather ’s ratings


What's the problem with The CBS News Evening News with Dan Rather? Critics meeting in Los Angeles with network executives want to know.

Dan Rather and company finish third in the nightly news race nearly every
week, and CBS News president Andrew Heyward said, "I'm frankly a little bit
puzzled by it ... but the fundamentals are sound. The program journalistically,
in my view, is excellent. Dan has had a fantastic year. We've just been
nominated for -- the program itself -- was nominated for six Emmy Awards,
significantly more than either of our competitors."

Asked Sunday whether CBS is near naming a successor for the aging Rather
or a timetable for his departure, Heyward responded, "We have never played the
name game or the calendar game ... and we’re not going to start now."

Chimed in CBS correspondent Steve Hartman, also appearing among CBS newsies
on the dais, "But I do think most people know I am the current frontrunner." (He
was kidding.).

On another matter, Heyward said CBS News mishandled its attempt to get an
interview with Pvt. Jessica Lynch, in which the news division suggested via a
letter that other units of CBS and its corporate owner, Viacom Inc., would probably
also be interested in making contractual deals with her.

Heyward said there was no quid pro quid suggested to Lynch -- that if she
gave an interview to CBS News, for example, another unit would pay for her
book or a made-for-television movie.

But Heyward admitted, "The letter was misconstrued, and a perception of such
a link was created ... So to the degree that people misunderstood or thought it
was inappropriate, that's not good. And we're obviously going to handle it
differently the next time."