Rather says reporting key to ratings gains

Dan Rather wants to get harder — on CBS’ nightly newscast, that is.

The veteran CBS newsman credited the network newscast’s recent ratings growth to the decision to emphasize hard news on the half-hour report.

Rather, speaking to reporters Tuesday during the CBS News presentation at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, credited “CBS Evening News” exec producer Jeff Fager with spearheading the newscast’s push to include more international coverage and more investigative reporting.

“I’d like our newscast to be harder than it is now,” said Rather. “Whether we can be the market leader again with hard news is open to question, but there is a large enough audience out there for us to survive and thrive on hard news.”

In recent weeks, CBS has been running neck-and-neck with ABC for second place behind NBC in the nightly news race.

Earlier in the session, “60 Minutes” exec producer Don Hewitt told reporters that there’s little chance that the network will follow the lead of NBC’s “Dateline” and ABC “20/20″ by launching a second weekly edition of its Sunday workhorse “60 Minutes.” Hewitt said it would be hard to find another team of reporters and producers capable of maintaining the standard set by “60 Minutes,” which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Also at the session, CBS disclosed that “60 Minutes” will be available with closed captions in Spanish starting Jan. 18. The move, believed to be a first for a primetime network series, is an effort to make TV’s top-rated newsmag more accessible to the nation’s growing Hispanic population.

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