It's been one Dan thing after another this year for "CBS Evening News" and its beleaguered anchor ...

Then there was Friday, when "CBS Evening News" was visiting the network's Miami bureau because of Pope John Paul II's arrival there ...

Late that afternoon, Dan Rather, informed that a U.S. Open tennis match was due to run over into the start of his 6:30 (first) feed of the "Evening News," called CBS News president Howard Stringer in New York to protest ...

Sources said he informed Stringer that if the news show did not get on the air at 6:30, the CBS Sports division should fill in the rest of the half hour, regardless of when the tennis match between Steffi Graf and Lori McNeil was completed ...

Stringer, however, contacted CBS Broadcast Group president Gene F. Jankowski, who was able to get CBS Sports to curtail whatever post-match programming, such as interviews, it had planned ...

Rather was informed by executive producer Tom Bettag that the Sports broadcast would end with the conclusion of the match, but the anchor remained adamant that Sports should fill in the remainder of the half hour if there were an overrun. When 6:30 came and went with tennis still on the air, Rather got up from his anchor chair, disconnected his microphone and left the set ...

At 6:32, the tennis match ended, and the Sports coverage signed off almost immediately. But without a "CBS Evening News" ready to go, the network went "black" and the 100 or so CBS affiliates that ordinarily receive the first feed of "The Evening News" were without a signal of any kind for approximately seven minutes ...

In Miami, Bettag caught up with Rather in a hallway of the CBS bureau and informed him of the technical foul-up. Rather returned to the set and a shortened "Evening News" finally went on the air at 6:39 p.m. -- but without a segment on the day's tennis. The second, 7 p.m., network feed of "CBS Evening News" went off without a hitch ...

"Dan was understandably concerned," Stringer said this weekend. "... He left his Miami anchor location to call New York. The tennis ended abruptly without Dan's knowledge, leaving the network in black. When Dan understood the situation he returned to his anchor position ... We regret the confusion between News and Sports for both our viewers and our affiliates. We will do everything possible to make sure such an occurrence does not happen again" ...

Rather said yesterday: "I've always believed the audience should be able to count on seeing the news at its regularly scheduled time and in its entirety. That was at issue Friday. But I would never -- nor would anyone at CBS News -- even think of deliberately allowing the network to go to black. I do believe that the 'CBS Evening News' is a public trust and will continue to do anything and everything to meet the responsibilities of that trust" ...

It's been a tough patch for Rather lately, and this latest incident is sure to be seen as an unseemly flash of temperament from an anchor under pressure (sort of a prima danna, perhaps?) ...

Bedeviled all year by slipping ratings and predictable talk that the slip may force him soon to share his pulpit, Rather has also received criticism on other fronts ...

ABC News' Ted Koppel almost took Dan's head off in public for seeming to question on the air former ABC correspondent Charles Glass' status as a kidnaped hostage ...

Recently, Kyle Good, who had been the only female director at CBS News, left for NBC's new "Sunday Today" show after Rather reportedly criticized her during the Iran-contra hearings ("It's not really totally true that I left because of the incident," Good later told New York magazine, but the timing hurt Rather) ...

But let's not dwell on the past, let's look to the future, as Rather and the "CBS Evening News" crew set up shoppe in Washington today for a busy four days as the confirmation hearings on Judge Robert Bork begin tomorrow and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze visits for key talks ...

NBC News has no plans to send anchor Tom Brokaw for the week, and as of late yesterday, ABC News was still pondering the trip, although Peter Jennings will be in town tomorrow to cover the Constitution salute featuring President Reagan and former chief justice Warren Burger ...

Speaking of the Bork hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

S. Robert Lichter and Linda S. Lichter, directors of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, have tracked network evening news coverage of the controversial Supreme Court nomination from July 1, when it was announced, through Labor Day ...

The Lichters focused on three questions: network-aired comments on Bork's fitness in general to be a judge; whether his judicial "ideology" was deemed good or bad; and whether his ideology was relevant to the discussion of his nomination ...

On the first point, his fitness, all the various sources interviewed on the network news shows were "basically positive," according to the Lichters, giving Bork a 65 percent approval rating ...

But 73 percent of the sources used by the network on the ideology issues found fault with Bork's stands; and 64 percent deemed the ideology to be relevant ...

Also in the News

Stories have circulated recently that last Friday (Sept. 11) was the day CBS "Morning Program" co-anchor Mariette Hartley had to notify the network whether she intended to stay with the program so negotiations could begin on a contract that is up at the end of the year ...

Friday arrived, the Nielsens marked the date by revealing "The Morning Program" had set an all-time low for the time period (a record-tying 1.9 Nielsen rating and a record-setting 10 percent audience share), and CBS Network president Tom Leahy let it be known through a spokeswoman that Sept. 11 actually had no particular significance ...

Meanwhile, Leahy said he was busy trying to improve the show, Hartley's back from vacation, and this turns out to be a pretty nothing item, all around ...

And while we're talking morning talk (it continually astounds me how one item can lead into another in this business), NBC's "Today" took first in the network race last week with a 4.7/24, ABC's "Good Morning America" was second at 3.7/19, and we won't embarrass "The Morning Program" by repeating its record-setting figures ...

That's 49 weeks in a row in first place for "Today" ...

If it's any consolation to CBS, and it ought to be, the Nielsen people meters reduced "Today's" weekly count to a 4.2/22, raised GMA to a 3.9/20 and "Morning Program" to a 2.2/11 ...

ABC, by the way, has contended all along that people meters would make GMA's race with "Today" closer