1986: Dan Debuts a Rather Courageous ‘CBS Evening News’ Sign-off
On this day in 1986, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather debuted a new newscast sign-off: “Courage.” On the following day, he used it again. On day three, Rather shook things up a little. Coraje, he said. (That’s Spanish for courage.)
By mid-week, TV journalists and Rather’s colleagues and contemporaries were buzzing about his new catch-phrase — but not in a positive way. As CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl recounts in her 1999 memoir, Reporting Live: “Over at NBC, Bryant Gumbel poked fun at Dan on the Today show, trying out his own sign-offs: ‘Valor,’ ‘Hot dogs,’ ‘Mazel Tov’.”
On day four, Rather was back to plain-old “Courage.” And he ended the Friday broadcast with Courage, as well.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, published on September 6, Rather shed a some light on his courageous broadcast sign-off. “I’ve been using it as a greeting or salutation for at least 15 or 20 years,” Rather said, “and I sometimes used it in the ’70s to end my radio broadcasts. I like the word; what can I say? “It’s a good word. I think I’m going to use it for a while.”
But, he didn’t. “Courage” was missing from the following week’s broadcasts, and it didn’t reappear until Febuary 11, 2009, which was Rather’s last day as anchor of CBS Evening News:
“Not long after I first came to the anchor chair I briefly signed off using the word ‘courage’,” he said. “I want to return to it now, in a different way, to a nation still nursing a broken heart for what happened here in 2001, and especially to those who found themselves closest to the events of September 11.
“To our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in dangerous places. To those who have endured the tsunami and to all who have suffered natural disasters, and who must now find the will to rebuild. To the oppressed and to those whose lot it is to struggle, in financial hardship or in failing health. To my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all. And, to each of you: Courage.
“For the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather reporting. Good night.”