RATHER WINS GRUDGING ADMIRATION FROM RIVALS

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Steve Friedman, the outspoken executive producer of NBC Nightly News, concedes a grudging admiration for the fact that Dan Rather managed to interview Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. ``The desk-chained anchorman is a thing of the past,'' Mr. Friedman said in a Monitor interview. ``If Dan Rather is in the Middle East, you have to build your show around him. But I don't think you put yourself out of position for six weeks to get one interview, as Dan Rather did. I think that's carrying it to a silly extreme.''

Friedman says his game plan is to allow his anchor, Tom Brokaw, to travel, too, but only when they are assured of a good story. ``When I took over the show here, I announced that the plan was to send Tom on the road when it made sense. We announced that in June, long before Dan Rather knew where the Middle East was....

``I think technology will more and more make it possible to anchor from anywhere. But certainly in a country like Iraq, where you don't have free access and you have to talk by telephone from the American Embassy, that's not a place from which to anchor your broadcast.

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``But don't mistake what I am saying. Dan Rather has done a good job. I am criticizing CBS News for trying to justify keeping Dan there for six weeks through a public relations offensive.''

He cited the fact that Rather has made himself available for phone interviews with print reporters as an example of outrageous self-promotion.

Edward Turner, executive vice president at CNN, says he believes we will see more anchors on the move, mainly for cosmetic reasons. ``The true job of an anchor is to pull together the threads of a story, and if the story is located pretty much in one spot, then there is a logical reason for having your anchor on site.''

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