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CBS Anchor Dan Rather Steps Down

One of the best-known faces on U.S. television, CBS network newscaster Dan Rather, is leaving the anchor desk after 24 years. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau reports on Mr. Rather's long, illustrious, and sometimes controversial career.

Mr. Rather was a young local television reporter in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, when he was thrust into the national spotlight covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

He went on to cover the leading stories of his era from the war in Vietnam to the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. war in Iraq.

In his final night in the anchor seat, Mr. Rather summed up the defining stories of his career, including the biggest one of all.

''No story over these many years, not the Vietnam war, not the assassination of one president or the fall of another, no story effected Americans as personally as 9/11 or so profoundly changed our lives. September 11, 2001. You will remember this day as long as you live," he said.

Mr. Rather, who is 73, was thought to be planning to retire at the end of the year. But he became the center of a storm of controversy over a story concerning President Bush's military service, which CBS aired during the 2004 presidential campaign. Shortly after the story was shown to be flawed, Dan Rather announced his departure date. But he says the controversy had nothing to do with his decision to leave, 24 years to the day he took over the anchor desk from broadcast journalism icon Walter Cronkite.

At the end of his last broadcast Wednesday night, Mr. Rather thanked his colleagues and audience and, in a signature sign off wished them "courage."

"A deeply felt thanks to all of you who have let us into your homes night after night. It has been a privilege and one never taken lightly," he said. "For the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather reporting. Good night."

Mr. Rather is not ending his 42-year career as a reporter. He will continue working for CBS, filing stories for the weekly show 60 Minutes.