CBS News

anchorman Dan Rather will give up his chair in March.

The

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-owned network announced the move with a statement on its Web site. The news comes after a tumultuous election campaign for CBS.

"The veteran CBS newsman will relinquish his role as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News in March,"

CBSNews.com reported. "He will remain on at CBS as a 60 Minutes correspondent. Rather has been in the anchor chair for 24 years."

The network didn't name a replacement. In a subsequent press release, CBS said Rather would step down on March 9, 2005, 24 years after his first broadcast as anchor.

"I have always said that I'd know when the time was right to step away from the anchor chair," Rather said in the press release. "This past summer, CBS and I began to discuss this matter in earnest -- and we decided that the close of the election cycle would be an appropriate time. I have always been and remain a 'hard news' investigative reporter at heart. I now look forward to pouring my heart into that kind of reporting full-time."

His heart aside, Rather came under heavy criticism this fall for running a story taking issue with President Bush's National Guard service in the early 1970s. After mounting a vigorous early defense of the story and its sourcing, Rather and CBS conceded in September that they

couldn't confirm the authenticity of documents cited in the report.

The furor started with the Sept. 8 "60 Minutes" broadcast. After initially brushing off questions about the segment, CBS in mid-September started an investigation into the matter and said it would seek to get to the bottom of the dispute.

"Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report," CBS News President Andrew Heyward said Sept. 20. "We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret."

Rather, who reported the story, issued an apology.

"We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry," he said in September. "It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism."