Rather heading back to New York after Afghanistan trip

Wednesday, December 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ After anchoring the ``CBS Evening News'' for three nights from Afghanistan, Dan Rather is headed back to New York.

The veteran newsman will anchor Thursday's program from CBS' New York studio. While in Afghanistan, he filed reports for his show, ``The Early Show'' and ''60 Minutes II.''

Appearing on CNN's ``Larry King Live'' Monday night, Rather had said he planned to be in Afghanistan awhile. He said it was important to be a reporter and that technology made it easier for anchors to be mobile.

But CBS spokeswoman Sandra Genelius said Wednesday that the network always planned that the duration of his trip would be day-to-day depending on the news.

``He was the only anchor who was there,'' she said. ``He did what he set out to do. He wanted to see the story firsthand and report the story firsthand, and that's what he did.''

While CBS said the long trip served its purpose, some competitors saw Rather's return Wednesday as a retreat.

``Putting your anchor on the ground doesn't necessarily buy you anything,'' said Steve Capus, executive producer of NBC's ``Nightly News.'' ``In this day and age, in the age of MSNBC and 24-hour news, there better be a good reason to commit the time and resources. We're going to think long and hard before we send Tom (Brokaw) anywhere.''

After Rather left for Afghanistan, NBC said it didn't plan to send Brokaw overseas unless he could advance the story. Still, NBC talked to military officials about what kind of access Brokaw could get in Afghanistan.

ABC said it was keeping Peter Jennings in New York, saying it is difficult to have an anchor in a remote location when news is breaking elsewhere.

Last Friday, when Rather began anchoring from Afghanistan, other news broadcasts led with the death of former Beatle George Harrison. Israel's strike back at Palestinian leaders led Monday news shows.

Ratings proved an inconclusive measure of the success of Rather's trip.

Based on overnight Nielsen Media Research ratings, the third-place ``CBS Evening News'' had smaller ratings with Rather in Afghanistan on Monday and Tuesday than it did the same days the week before. NBC and ABC's ratings were also down on Tuesday week-to-week. On Monday, ABC's ratings were flat and NBC rose slightly in comparison to the previous week.