RATHER PRESSURED CBS TO AIR DISCREDITED REPORT, SAYS BOOK

Although he continues to maintain that he had little involvement with the 60 Minutes Wednesday report on George Bush's service in the National Guard that led to his ouster as CBS Evening News anchor, Dan Rather in fact pressured the program's producers to air the report before it was thoroughly vetted, according to media writer Howard Kurtz. Internet gossip Matt Drudge has posted an excerpt from Kurtz's book Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News Race, set to be published on Tuesday, in which Kurtz claims that Rather phoned Josh Howard, producer of the 60 Minutes show, the day before the September 2004 broadcast demanding to know how the controversial segment was being promoted. Howard reportedly replied that there would be no promotions until the CBS lawyers had signed off on the segment and the White House had had a chance to reply. Rather responded that he was aware that other reporters were working on the story. "We're going to lose our exclusive," he reportedly said, then told Howard that he planned to give one of the documents in CBS's possession about Bush's National Guard service to the New York Times, noting that "they'll have to credit CBS News." Kurtz claims that Howard told Rather, "You can't do that either. ... We haven't finished vetting this." At that point, Kurtz claims, "Rather grumbled and hung up."

DOZIER TELLS COURIC'S CRITICS TO "BACK OFF"

Kimberly Dozier has rallied to the defense of embattled CBS anchor Katie Couric, whom critics are taking swipes at with greater frequency as ratings for the CBS Evening News continue to decline. "We are so eager to beat up on any one of us who get to the top of the parapet," said Dozier, the CBS correspondent who was critically injured in a car-bomb attack in Iraq last year. In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, she noted that some critics had observed that Couric wore little makeup while covering the Virginia Tech massacre earlier this year. "She was covering the news," Dozier said. "Back off, people. That's not fighting fair."

IMUS TO RETURN?

Don Imus could be returning to radio by early next year, according to published reports, but there are no solid plans in the works to put the broadcast on television, as was the case with his previous show for CBS Radio, which was simulcast by MSNBC. (Imus, however, has reportedly had preliminary conversations with Roger Ailes, head of Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network.) Advertising Age indicated today (Monday) that Citadel Broadcasting, which bought ABC Radio and its stations, is likely to face advertisers' reluctance to buy commercials for their products on the ABC stations, given Imus's controversial remarks about the Rutgers' women's basketball team. But in an interview with the New York Times, Citadel CEO Farid Suleman remarked that Imus has "more than paid the price for what he did. I think he should be evaluated by what he does going forward."

MSNBC.COM MAKES ITS FIRST BUY

Marking its first acquisition ever, MSNBC.com is buying Seattle-based Newsvine.com, a website that encourages "citizen journalism." Terms of the all-cash deal were not disclosed. Newsvine CEO Mike Davidson will continue to head the company, reporting to MSNBC Interactive News President Charlie Tillinghast.

FOX BUSINESS NETWORK PRODUCERS WON'T SHOW THEIR CARDS

With only a week to go until the launch of the Fox Business Network, Fox News President Roger Ailes claims that even he doesn't know how the channel will differentiate itself from rival CNBC. "I'm trying to get it up on my TV so I can watch rehearsals," Ailes told today's (Monday) Wall Street Journal. "Needless to say we didn't put out a program schedule because everything we suggested we were gonna do or CNBC thought we were gonna do over the last two years they've gone ahead and done in anticipation and preemption. So we're really not saying much." Although FBN's corporate parent News Corp recently purchased Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, CNBC currently has an exclusive contract to use the Journal's reports. "So I'm expecting them to come out of the gate the day we launch with some brilliant programming based on The Wall Street Journal. They've been holding it in reserve I think and they're gonna flood me with a tsunami of brilliant ideas and programming on Day One," Ailes said. Asked whether News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch might "try to find a way around the content-sharing agreement" between the Journal and CNBC, Ailes replied, "I tell you one thing I never do is predict Mr. Murdoch."

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Brian B.