Veteran CBS News “Face the Nation” moderator Bob Schieffer announced Wednesday at the Texas journalism school named for him that he’ll be retiring this summer.
It’s not his first retirement announcement but, at age 78, looks like it has a good chance of sticking. Schieffer was speaking to students at an annual symposium that bears his name at TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism in Fort Worth, his alma mater.
“It’s been a great adventure,” Schieffer said at the college. “You know, I’m one of the luckiest people in the world because as a little boy, as a young reporter, I always wanted to be a journalist, and I got to do that. And not many people get to do that, and I couldn’t have asked for a better life or something that was more fun and more fulfilling.”
A former newspaper reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a radio reporter at Fort Worth’s KXOL and a TV reporter at what was then WBAP, Channel 5, Schieffer joined CBS News in 1969 and has been the network’s chief Washington correspondent since 1992. He began at the political affairs show “Face the Nation” in 1991, asking direct questions to politicians in a Texas twang.
At KXOL, Schieffer noted he was paid $1 an hour, but he said if you worked overtime, you got paid 90 cents an hour for the first hour, 80 cents for the next hour and so on.
“The joke was, if you worked 11 hours overtime, you’d have to pay them a dime,” he said.
He had an unexpected career highlight starting in 2005, filling in as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” following Dan Rather’s exit for a year and a half until Katie Couric took over the role. His folksy style got good reviews, boosted ratings and healed morale at the news division following the network’s discredited report on President George W. Bush’s military service.
Schieffer survived bladder cancer about a decade ago, a brush with mortality that was one factor in his 2008 announcement that he would retire with the inauguration of a new president in January 2009.
That inauguration came and went and Schieffer stayed. He was enjoying the job too much. The death of NBC’s Tim Russert, whose “Meet the Press” led in the ratings for many years, opened Sunday morning to a tighter competition. “Face the Nation” often led, and CBS responded by expanding the show to an hour.
“I know what you’re thinking,” CBS News President David Rhodes said in a memo to his staff Wednesday. “Bob’s thought about retiring before, is he really retiring now? And of course with his long connection to CBS News we’d be happy to learn that he’s not leaving now, or that he can be seen by our viewers in the future.”
But Rhodes said Schieffer wanted to announce the end of his career where it all began.
Rhodes called him “an inspiration and a mentor to so many colleagues — and, frankly, to me.”
CBS would not talk Wednesday about potential successors at “Face the Nation.” Schieffer hasn’t had a single substitute when he took time off; Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell, Major Garrett, John Dickerson and Nancy Cordes have all filled in at different times.
His chief competitors are Chuck Todd at “Meet the Press” and George Stephanopoulos at ABC’s “This Week.”
Schieffer had some advice for students at the event: “Pick something you love to do,” he said, noting that if you work at it long enough, things will probably turn out all right.
Schieffer said that he had once said, “If my life ended tomorrow, I’d have gotten my money’s worth.” He still believes that, he said.
AP Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report from Los Angeles and Robert Francis of the Business Press reported from the event.