NEW YORK — CBS has canceled its “60 Minutes Wednesday” months after the show aired a flawed report on President Bush’s military service, but Dan Rather, the correspondent at the helm of the report, will be offered a position on the Sunday edition of the show.
Viacom co-prexy/co-chief operating officer Leslie Moonves said the show was not canceled because of the Bush report, which the network ultimately retracted.
“This was a ratings call, not a content call,” he said. “If ’60 Minutes Wednesday’ got a 10 rating, it would still be on the schedule.”
In place of the newsmagazine, CBS is inserting returning comedies “Still Standing” and “Yes, Dear” in hopes of creating a lead-in for new skein “Criminal Minds,” which will take on ABC’s Wednesday night hit “Lost.”
“60 Minutes Wednesday” was created in 1996 during the last heyday of newsmags in hopes of reproducing the Sunday hour’s quality on Wednesday night and serving as a farm team for the original show.
The show’s star correspondent and producer team of Rather and Mary Mapes produced one of last year’s biggest news scoops, about abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as the story about Bush’s military service, the scandal about which came to be known as “Memogate.”
Moonves said the final decision was made Tuesday. CBS News prexy Andrew Heyward made the announcement to staff Wednesday morning and will evaluate which correspondents and staff will be offered positions on the Sunday show or in other parts the news division.
“We’re … making those decisions as we speak,” Moonves said.
Moonves wouldn’t comment on how many layoffs could occur as a result. Several staffers were removed following the investigation into the report, including Mapes, the producer on the story, and former executive producer Josh Howard, who was asked to resign.
Correspondents on the Wednesday show have been campaigning for positions on the Sunday edition, but the show already has a full staff. This played into CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour’s decision to leave the show last week.
“Wednesday” correspondents Scott Pelley and Bob Simon, who already work part-time for the Sunday show, will join the Sunday edition along with Rather, who is under contract through 2006.
It’s also conceivable that one of the show’s marquee faces could retire. At 87, Mike Wallace still files more than 10 stories a season. Morley Safer, 74, works part-time, and essayist Andy Rooney is 84.