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Schieffer Named Interim Evening Anchor

As expected, CBS News is playing it safe with Dan Rather’s replacement, for now.

When Rather steps down March 9 after 24 years, Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer, a well-respected veteran and the network's top Washington presence, will step in for a “short transition period until the new format of the broadcast is launched,” CBS News said Wednesday.

Schieffer is a safe choice for an embattled news division in the wake of the controversial 60 Minutes Wednesday report on President Bush’s Texas National Guard service.

In November, Rather said he’d step down as Evening News anchor. Last month, an independent investigation resulted in four senior CBS News staffers being fired or asked to resign, including the producer on the piece, Mary Mapes, and CBS News prime time chief Betsy West.

CBS did not elaborate on how long Schieffer will host the show. Marcy McGinnis, CBS News SVP of news coverage, says the network opted for Schieffer “because he is a name the American public knows. He is an excellent journalist and broadcaster and has been a CBS anchor for more than 30 years.”

Viacom Co-COO and CBS Chairman Les Moonves is looking to overhaul the broadcast and has said he will consider a multiple-anchor format. Who will replace Rather permanently is a favorite media exercise these days, with names like Today stars Katie Couric and Matt Lauer and Meet the Press host Tim Russert among the favorites.

Installing Schieffer in the interim may reduce the odds that Rather’s successor will come from inside CBS. Top inside candidates are reporters Scott Pelley and John Roberts, the latter which has subbed for Rather while he was in the field.

Schieffer will sign-on March 10. A Washington veteran, he has covered the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and Capitol Hill during his 30-year tenure at the network. Schieffer is also a member of the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. He will continue to host Face the Nation.