It’s not Dan Rather’s “CBS Evening News” anymore.

Along with its first new anchor in 24 years, CBS Thursday unveiled a new look and feel for its struggling third-place newscast.

“Evening News”‘ fast-paced new opening will often have interim anchor Bob Schieffer “throwing” to up to five correspondents around the world as they tease their coming stories.

During the newscast, Schieffer does live, spontaneous interviews with correspondents. In the past, such segments were taped and reporters knew questions in advance, says executive producer Jim Murphy.

“I’m trying to shift the focus to our correspondents,” says Schieffer, 68, moderator of “Face the Nation.” “I want to be, for lack of a better word, a guide for viewers from one story to the next.”

While CBS czar Leslie Moonves mulls over “Evening News”‘ ultimate configuration, Schieffer and Murphy spent the last few weeks brainstorming changes.

“I want to stop this business of having people do these rehearsed stand-ups,” Schieffer says. “I want to try to talk like normal people talk, not just stand there and bark at the camera.”

The new “talk back” approach suits Schieffer, says Murphy, because “he’s a clear conversationalist, and I’m playing to that.” Rather preferred using that time for more stories, he adds.

Shifting the focus from anchor to correspondent is a reflection of the times, in Murphy’s view.

With so many news sources available, an anchor “is not going to stand out and be the single voice of authority.” (Or, as Moonves puts it, “the voice of God.”)

“We have a lot of good people who all have relationships with the audience, and their strengths should be used.” Says Schieffer: “I want this to be their showcase.”

Still, an anchor “does have weight. After decades of the serious, no-frills Rather, CBS hopes that viewers respond to the warm, folksy and, in Murphy’s words, “slightly chattier” Schieffer.

“My philosophy is, you work to the strengths of each person you put on the air. Dan’s a hard-news guy. Bob is, too, but he has this very clear, plainspoken voice. He asks the kinds of questions people at home would ask.”

Murphy grades Schieffer’s debut “an absolute A-plus. He stepped into a difficult situation at a critical time and did an exceptional job. He succeeded beyond my expectations.”

Schieffer, who anchored CBS’s weekend news for 23 years, “had a few butterflies, but it’s not like I hadn’t sat at that desk before. Just not under these circumstances.”



In an unprecedented move for USA Network, “Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story” will premiere commercial-free at 9 p.m. April 20.

“Ring” chronicles the life of six-time welterweight champion Emile Griffith, who in 1962 killed Benny “The Kid” Paret in the ring during a live telecast of the fight.

The moving documentary features archival footage and interviews with boxing experts, fighters and both families. Directed by Dan Klores and Ron Berger, “Ring drew raves at the Sundance Film Festival in January.



Former Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno will return to CNN as a special correspondent for Paula Zahn’s “Now.” Sesno, who left in September “01 after 17 years as an anchor-reporter, will continue as a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.



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