Pulling Together

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Pulling Together

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This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW and still feeling jazzed from a get-together week before last, when Bob Schieffer was saluted at a party the night of his final broadcast anchoring The CBS Evening News.

I know -- now Katie Couric is on the job, and off to a good start. Schieffer has returned to Washington to carry on as host of Face the Nation.

But I'd just like to offer this postscript to the several weeks that grew into 18 months Schieffer spent at the Evening News anchor desk, bridging that gulf between Dan Rather's exit and the start of the Couric age.

Mainly I want to share this with you because it reminded me that not everything in the world of big-time TV journalism is cold and calculated. What was going on at this reception -- attended by Evening News technicians and company brass and CBS-ers in between, along with a few well-wishers from outside the fold -- was uncontrived good cheer.

The folks there weren't just glad to have made it to this point alive, but also really psyched about the next step. That was bracing to behold.

Surely you know the back story: Dan Rather and his discredited 60 Minutes report about President Bush, which begat the Rathergate scandal, with Rather leaving the anchor desk after 24 years in February, 2005.

With morale at CBS News shattered and its credibility at a low ebb, the very life of this institution hung in the balance, as one of the execs summed up that dark period for his colleagues at the party.

Who ya gonna call? Schieffer, of course, the straight-shooting Texas boy pushing 70... just the right fresh face after being at CBS News for four decades. And by golly, with Schieffer in the hot seat the ratings made an uptick and the broadcast was widely thought to be improved as he bought them time -- far more time than anyone (he especially) dreamed would be needed to settle on a permanent successor.

Schieffer got them through, and did it with optimism and collegiality. And that was why we were there.

The party itself was nothing lavish. A private room upstairs at a mid-Manhattan watering hole. An open bar and finger food. But highfalutin isn't Schieffer's style.

Folksy yet dapper in the blue suit he had worn for the broadcast, he worked the crowd, though for him it looked like anything but work with his solemn on-air face creased into a grin.

And when the time came to make a few remarks to those gathered, he reflected their warm feelings back onto them. He cited a Native American saying: how the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack, the wolf. They were all a team that was pulling together again, he said, and he thanked them for it.

"I love each and every one of you," he declared in his Austin twang, just before the room erupted with three rounds of "hip-hip, hooray!"

Dan Rather, the man Schieffer stepped in for and who left CBS altogether in June, wasn't mentioned, of course. He already is the distant past. Schieffer, doing what he had always done -- deliver the news with clarity and reassurance -- helped ready CBS News for the future. At this party was a bunch of people who were terribly grateful.

What happens now? How should I know? At this early stage I have no horse in the evening-news race. Not Katie or Brian or Charlie. I just want to say I had a good time at Schieffer's party, and I think you would have, too.

And I think that, like me, you would have left feeling that whatever your game, you'd want a guy like Schieffer on your team.

This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW.