RATHER VS. COURIC

In what might have appeared to some of his former colleagues as a case of public schadenfreude, Dan Rather has attributed the declining ratings of the CBS Evening News under his successor, Katie Couric, to an attempt by network management "to bring the Today ethos to the evening news and to dumb it down, tart it up, in hopes of attracting a younger audience." During a telephone interview on MSNBC Monday, Rather insisted that "I have nothing against Katie Couric," who he said was "a very nice person." But he suggested, she may have bit off more than she could chew by trying "to change networks, which is always difficult, and change the program at the same time." He suggested that she is relying too heavily on celebrity coverage while at the same time shying away from coverage of the war in Iraq, which he called "a strategic catastrophe of historic proportions." In response, CBS chief Les Moonves today (Tuesday) called Rather's comments "sexist" and "a cheap shot." In a speech at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications, Moonves said that he was "surprised at the vitriol that has come out against" Couric and said that it was essential that the network find a way to attract younger viewers to its news broadcast.

EX-CBS EVENING NEWS PRODUCER TO OVERSEE BBC NEWSCAST AIMED AT U.S.

Rome Hartman, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News while it was anchored by Bob Schieffer and Katie Couric -- until he was replaced by Rick Kaplan last March -- is developing a one-hour evening newscast for the BBC aimed at U.S. audiences, the BBC reported on its website today (Tuesday). The program will focus on international news. Hartman said that there was a "growing appreciation" among the American public of the impact of international events. But Andrew Tyndall, whose Tyndall report tracks U.S. newscasts, told the British broadcaster, "The virtue of the BBC is that it isn't American. So hiring an American to give it a more American feel could be counter-productive."

WAS WWE CHIEF MCMAHON VICTIM OF CAR BOMB?

A limousine in which World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon appeared to have been a passenger exploded in Wilkes-Barre, PA Monday night. However, firefighters who arrived at the scene and put out the fire said that no body had been recovered from the wreckage. Initial reports were skeptical that McMahon was actually killed in the explosion, and suggested that it may have been all part of an elaborate stunt.

TONYS TELECAST BOOSTS BROADWAY TICKET SALES

Ratings for Sunday night's Tony Awards ceremonies on CBS may have been off substantially from previous years, but Spring Awakening, which received eight awards, saw ticket sales mushroom to $1.25 million between the time the telecast started until the end of the day on Monday, Daily Variety reported today (Tuesday). In fact, the trade publication observed, the Tonys telecast saw nearly every production post substantial increases, with Frost/Nixon, which won a best actor award for Frank Langella, posting its best sales ever.

ABC NEWS AND USA TODAY TO TRADE STORIES

ABC News and USA Today have agreed to trade political stories on each other's websites through next year's elections, the two companies announced Monday. ABC will get written reports from the newspaper, while USA Today will get video reports from the network. It's a straight trade arrangement; no money will change hands.

BANCROFTS TO SEND MURDOCH SAFEGUARD PROPOSALS

The Bancroft family, which owns Dow Jones, the company that publishes the Wall Street Journal, is expected to send News Corp a set of proposals as early as today that would safeguard the newspaper's editorial independence if the Rupert Murdoch-owned company acquires it, the Journal reported today (Tuesday). The family is said to want strong enforcement provisions included in any deal. However, one Bancroft family members told the newspaper, "This is not a done deal."

TONY BLAIR CALLS NEWS MEDIA A "FERAL BEAST"

Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair today accused the media of becoming a "feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits." He said that newspapers and broadcasters alike now feel the need to offer news stories that have "impact." He told a group at the offices of the Reuter News Agency in London, "Impact is what matters. ... Impact gives competitive edge. Of course the accuracy of a story counts, but it is secondary to impact." He said the news media operate on the theory that "the audience needs to be arrested, held and their emotions engaged. Something that is interesting is less powerful than something that makes you angry or shocked. The consequences of this are acute. First, scandal or controversy beats ordinary reporting hands down. ... Second attacking motive is far more potent than attacking judgment. It is not enough for someone to make an error. It has to be venal, conspiratorial." Blair concluded, "I've made this speech after much hesitation. I know it will be rubbished in certain quarters. But I also know this has needed to be said."

Brian B.