by Barbara Matusow

Matusow must have been living under a lucky star when she undertook this study of the making of the TV news anchor. Her book is being published at a time when the death of Frank Reynolds, the demotion of Roger Mudd and the ascension of Peter Jennings have made headlines across the country—and the media are covering the network news anchors as if they were actors trying out for the role of Don Corleone in The Godfather. Matusow's work includes more than enough inside anecdotes to satisfy the evening star-gazers while raising serious questions on the implications of anointing mere news readers with the regal authority of kings. Beginning with the 1979-80 bidding war between ABC and CBS—which won Dan Rather an estimated salary of $25 million over 10 years as anchorman of the CBS Evening News—the author backtracks to the development of the anchor from the early days of television, when TV news was scorned by serious radio journalists such as the great Edward R. Murrow, and news copy was read by announcers such as John Cameron Swayze, Matusow takes the reader behind the scenes to NBC's creation of the winning anchor team that combined serious Chet Huntley with sprightly David Brinkley in the late '50s and '60s and to the evolution of Walter Cronkite from a buccaneering radio journalist in World War II to his pinnacle as the most trusted man in America. (When Cronkite editorialized against the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson is said to have commented that "if he had lost Walter Cronkite, he had lost the country.") Matusow, a former writer and producer for CBS and NBC, approaches her subject with a critical eye. "Mudd comes across as a man who is comfortable with himself (detractors call it arrogance)," she writes. Rather is so "country-boy" solicitous that he "thanks people for recognizing him when they stop him on the street." After reading this book, the anchor on your TV screen may never again look the same to you. (Houghton Mifflin, $14.95)