Rather, CBS in standoff mode

Eye newsman close to ankling

The Dan Rather era is quickly coming to a close at CBS.

The anchor is in talks to exit the network before the start of the TV season.

Rather’s contract is up in November, and the net has no intention of renewing it.

Instead, it is seeking a deal that would allow Rather to exit early in order to minimize the distraction to a news division gearing up for a costly relaunch with Katie Couric at the helm.

Rather told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he would like to continue to work at CBS News, but not in an emeritus capacity. “The question is whether they have anything for me to do that I think is meaningful,” he said.

Rather stepped down as “Evening News” anchor in 2005, his 24-year run marred at the end by his involvement in a controversial story on President Bush’s military service.

He became a full-time correspondent for “60 Minutes” and contributed eight pieces over the past year, a light output for a typical correspondent.

But the staff of “60 Minutes” had been swelled with the addition of Rather as well as correspondents from the canceled “60 Minutes II.” That staff is set to add Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper as part-time correspondents in the fall.

Yet sources inside CBS said the head count is a poor excuse for not finding a place for the newsman who spent 44 years at the network.

CBS declined to comment on the talks. Sources close to Rather said an agreement to separate from the Eye was imminent.

Rather’s departure sets the stage for him to consider other opportunities, much like Ted Koppel when his contract was up at ABC News’ “Nightline.”

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