Mudd in the CBS EyeIt's funny. I thought I was the only person alive who thought - at the time - that the Rather promotion was a mistake. But I remember when Walter Cronkite was succeeded by ol' Dan. My thought at the time was: CBS has blundered. But not in passing over the very deserving Roger Mudd. It was in passing over the even more deserving Charles Kuralt.
By Reid Collins
There they were, on C-Span 2, for 50 minutes Sunday Evening. Former CBS News Correspondent Tom Fenton interviewed about his book, Bad News. And the interviewer? A man whose truly bad news was inextricably tied to an event of the past week: the retirement of CBS Evening News Anchor, Dan Rather.
He is Roger Mudd. Twenty-four years ago, Mudd was a CBS News Correspondent considered the heir-apparent to then-reigning Walter Cronkite as the man in the anchor chair. It didn't happen. There was this brash Texan, who had made a name for himself as President Nixon'sbete noir while the network's White House Correspondent. It was known that Cronkite was soon to retire, on his own terms, and it was widely assumed, in and out of the organization, that the dignified Mudd would succeed him.
One day, six months before Cronkite was ready, top brass at CBS had an announcement: Cronkite's replacement would be -- Dan Rather -- and almost immediately. Cronkite would be mollified with a seat on the CBS board of directors, a rumored million dollars a year, a cubby hole with staff at the headquarters building, Black Rock, and several handshakes. Mudd swiftly left CBS's employ, went to NBC, and finally was narrating for the History Channel and doing interviews such as that of Fenton on C-Span Sunday evening. (link)
Walter Cronkite at the time was considered "The Most Trusted Man In America." And that moniker provided a big advantage to CBS News. Charles Kuralt at the time was held in similar regard by down-home America. It seemed a natural evolution for Kuralt to replace Cronkite.
Instead CBS went with Rather, "The Most Admired Man In Mainstream Media." The rest is history.
Dan Rather will be missed by the mainstream press. Some of the fawning editorials written in recent days attest to that. But ratings reveal the attitudes of down-home America. We quit watching CBS News long ago.
Roger Mudd is doing C-Span 2. Charles Kuralt is dead. And the geniuses at CBS News are wondering where they went wrong.