Falling Stars: Dan Rather and Connie Chung
Career Pinnacle: Expectations ran high when the glamorous Chung became Rather’s Evening News coanchor in 1993. The CBS newscast had been floundering, and execs hoped — as Katharine Hepburn once said of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers — that she would give him sex and he would give her class, and the combo would boost the show’s ratings. At the press conference announcing their partnership, the two actually kissed.
Missteps: It was all downhill from there. On screen, the pair had zero chemistry. Off screen, Chung reportedly griped that Rather got the best assignments; Rather groused when Chung was allowed to coanchor live events. After Chung raised a storm by coaxing an anti-Hillary Clinton profanity out of Newt Gingrich’s mom on her magazine show Eye to Eye, Rather defended her good intentions but waxed noncommittal on her journalistic standards. And when CBS threw Chung ”an easy gimme,” as one insider put it, by sending her to cover the Oklahoma City bombing — despite the vacationing Rather’s offer to go — the rivalry exploded. The broadcast remains in third place.
Perceived Problem: As Andy Rooney told talk-jock Don Imus, the partnership is ”the worst network-news mistake since ABC paired Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner.”
Next Step: Sources say that Chung’s clout is no match for Rather’s. A former CBS exec agrees: ”Unless you’ve worked [at CBS News], you can’t appreciate just how Dan is admired.” And a producer at the network adds that with Chung’s low-rated Eye to Eye apparently headed for cancellation, ”it may be more worthwhile to pay her not to be on the air.” But if management stalls on a decision, he warns, Rather may ”ride off into the sunset. He’s fed up.”
Advice: If they’re to stay together, says Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D., author of Anger at Work: Learning the Art of Anger Management on the Job, ”They need to learn to assert themselves without being aggressive, to listen to each other, and to negotiate.”