Celebrity Retirement Scorecard: Dan Rather

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Dan RatherLoser: Daniel (Dan) Irvin Rather, Jr.
Former occupation/notable position held: Anchor, CBS Evening News
Activities during retirement: HDNet Personality; litigant
Retirement Report Card Grade: D

Don't feel bad if you've never heard of HDNet, a high-def cable network bankrolled by Internet mogul Mark Cuban. But you are sure to know one of its hosts, Dan Rather.

Channel 798 (give or take) is certainly not where the 76-year old journalist envisioned spending his career's sunset, and it may seem sad or justified depending on your feelings about the often polarizing newsman. His original script may well have called for a king-making hand-off to a new occupant of his CBS anchor chair, occasional contributions to 60 Minutes and maybe a few healthy book advances, which is the kind of retirement fun Tom Brokaw is having.

Nowhere to be found in that script was very publicly suing his longtime employer for violating his contract. CBS forced Rather to step down as anchor in 2005 as part of the fallout from a disputed report on President Bush's military service aired during the run-up to the 2004 election.

While Rather's circumstances are extreme in both nature and profile, retirement is packed with altered expectations and changes of plans. The question becomes how prepared you are to accept those changes and to make adjustments. That starts with the right kind of introspection, and getting a handle on how you've handled stress and transition in the past. The quality of your social network, and your ability to take good advice from those you trust matters a great deal too.

Rather's retirement grade of D owes not to his diminished media stature, but to the quite surprisingly undignified way he's handled the whole affair. He did anything but adjust positively to new circumstances.

You have to figure a concept like legacy means something to an out-sized personality such as Rather. But most every action he's taken since parting from CBS runs counter to being remembered for a career populated by some extraordinary journalism, particularly covering the JFK assassination, Vietnam and Watergate.

But hey, the media is famous for bringing back its own to get a much-needed ratings fix. (See "Albert, Marv") In the wake of Katie Couric's abysmal viewership, perhaps CBS head Les Moonves need look no further than her chair's former occupant. Now that's what you'd call creative lawsuit settlement.

Michael Burnham is CEO of My Next Phase, a consulting firm offering non-financial retirement planning products and services (www.mynextphase.com).
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