Goodbye and Good Luck

Goodbye and Good Luck 1GOOD luck and all that to Katie Couric tomorrow night, but hers is hardly the most intriguing or nail-biting story about the long history and potent mystique of the “CBS Evening News” anchor chair.

Not even close.

If you want a truly delirious story about drama in the CBS newsroom, consider this: “The CBS Evening News” with Arnold Zenker.

It happened. And it’s probably safe to say that nothing like it will ever happen again.

Even though network newscasts no longer dominate the nation’s attention the way they once did, the anchor desks are still treated with near-majesty. Anchors are sent around the country on “listening tours”; the networks formulate intricate plans of succession. Nothing is left to chance.

Once upon a time, though — it was the spring of 1967 …

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists was threatening a strike, but the networks evidently didn’t take the union’s threat seriously. Then, the strike was called. The news broadcasters — including Walter Cronkite and his CBS News substitutes — walked out.

Who did CBS have waiting in the wings?

No one.

Whom did they tell to sit in Mr. Cronkite’s chair?