CBS News anchor Dan Rather scored another coup yesterday, wrapping up a news-filled "exclusive" interview with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in time for some five minutes of the 90-minute talk to air on the early (6:30 p.m.) feed of "CBS Evening News" ...

CBS apparently meant exclusive to the United States because French TV similarly obtained an interview with Saddam yesterday ...

The network late yesterday planned to devote an additional hour to the interview at 10 last night and a further special at 11:30 ...

Details of how Rather obtained the interview were sketchy yesterday, but network staffers said he has been "persistent" in his efforts to meet with Saddam since arriving in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, on Monday ...

The quick moves to capitalize on Rather's scoop underscored word of "very serious discussions" now being held at CBS News for a regularly scheduled news show at 11:30 p.m., which could start almost immediately ...

The talks have been hush-hush, and whether the late news -- which would provide direct competition to ABC News's award-winning "Nightline" -- would continue past some future date when the Persian Gulf crisis might ease could not be determined yesterday ...

Lesley Stahl and Charles Kuralt -- who were due to anchor the late-night show yesterday -- are reported to be leading candidates to anchor the proposed half-hour ...

CBS Broadcast Group President Howard Stringer yesterday named Johnathan Rodgers as president of CBS Television Stations ...

Rodgers, 44, replaces Eric Ober, who last week became CBS News president, replacing David Burke.

As the executive in charge of the network's five owned stations, Rodgers becomes one of the highest-ranked African Americans in the television industry (his old friend Ron Townsend, who heads Gannett Broadcasting's station group, is another) ...

Rodgers most recently has been vice president and general manager of WBBM, the CBS-owned station in Chicago. With his appointment, CBS will move the station division headquarters to the Windy City. Rival Cap Cities/ABC Inc. divides its owned-station division between Philadelphia and L.A., and NBC operates out of New York ...

Rodgers has moved steadily to the top since his arrival at CBS in 1976 as assistant news director at WBBM. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he rose from executive producer to news director and finally station manager at KNXT (now KCBS) ...

He moved to New York in 1983, first as executive producer of the new "Nightwatch," then executive producer of the weekend edition of "CBS Evening News," attracting the attention of Stringer, who served as president of CBS News before taking charge of the network. Rodgers also worked closely with Ober, who was in the news division at the time ...

Rodgers was executive producer of "CBS Morning News" when CBS management called on him in 1986 to take over WBBM, which was then threatened with a boycott by Operation PUSH over minority hiring practices. His tough but even-handed solutions to the situation marked him for further advancement at the network ...

Stringer broke off a brief vacation on Monday to meet with Rodgers to discuss the job change ...

In addition to the Chicago and L.A. stations, cash-flush CBS also owns stations in New York, Philadelphia and Miami. Rodgers said yesterday that he'd be "an advocate of acquiring more stations" if the right situation presented itself ...

The totally ratings-free TV Column continues this morning with the announcement that NBC News -- short on bench strength, if rival news organizations are to be believed -- has signed Bob Herbert, a promising designated hitter ...

The veteran N.Y. Daily News columnist, who has reportedly been wooed by those selfsame rival networks, will join NBC News in January as a contributing correspondent for the major news shows, including "Nightly News" and "Today" ...

Herbert, who will continue with the paper, where he is also a member of the editorial board, is expected to contribute "video essays" on a regular basis ...

He was praised as a "talented, insightful and versatile journalist" by NBC News president Michael Gartner yesterday ...

NBC-owned Channel 4 here has signed with Paramount for rights to the new Maury Povich talk show that will begin syndication in September 1991 ...

WRC has the rights to air the still-untitled hour any time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, but no decision has been made regarding its scheduling ...

There has been talk that Gannett has been interested in a "group buy" for its TV stations, including WUSA here, leading to speculation that the Povich show might have been available as a replacement for the current 4 p.m. news hour on Channel 9 next year ...

As part of the Paramount package, Four has also renewed the tabloid half-hour "Hard Copy," now seen at 4:30 weekdays, where it is a companion for King World's "Inside Edition," for 1991-92 ...

Speaking of "Inside Edition," its celebrated guest journalist, Jesse Jackson, arrived with his production crew yesterday in Baghdad after a flight from Amman, Jordan. With the Rather coup, the news-making value of a planned interview with Saddam Hussein seems to have lost its edge ...

According to Av Westin, the King World executive who is in charge of "Inside Edition," Jackson and his staff have already met with several "under ministers" and he has been told that Saddam "was preparing himself" for an interview with Jackson, "possibly {today} or Friday" ...

Jackson, meanwhile, has been asked to remain "on standby" for a possible one-on-one "get acquainted" meeting with the Iraqi president preceding the scheduled interview, which is due to air on the syndicated program as early as next Tuesday (Channel 4 at 4 p.m. here) ...

Westin said Jackson, whose expenses are being paid by King World syndicators, is also expected to meet with Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz today and to tour the capital and meet "various Iraqi citizens" during the day ...

"So far they've had freedom of access" in Baghdad, Westin said. "The crew has been shooting film since the moment they got off the plane" (whose takeoff from Jordan was delayed several hours yesterday to permit Jackson and his staff to catch up on some needed sleep, according to Westin) ...

Jackson, whose syndicated "The Jesse Jackson Show" starts in late September, was bankrolled by King World after Time Warner, which is producing his upcoming weekly series, declined to finance the trip, as did several networks and The Washington Post, among many organizations whose aid was solicited before the King World deal was made ...

In Other News

The frightening breakdown in the criminal justice system of New York will be highlighted next Wednesday night in "The Koppel Report: Drugs, Crime & Doing Time," at 10 p.m. on ABC ...

Koppel (who's been sneaking a little vacation time on the Eastern Shore this week after his Persian Gulf triumphs) has been working on the story over the past eight months ...

He says crews "have had absolutely unprecedented access to the entire process of arrest and arraignment and even into courtroom bench conferences -- including one tremendous blowup between a judge and a defense attorney. It's something you've never seen before." ...

Koppel thinks the war on drugs, which the public is calling for, "is destroying the criminal justice system and undermining the Constitution. In New York alone, every year there are 100,000 drug-related arrests and half of them are felony drug charges. If each of these defendants insisted on a trial by jury, the cost could approach $6 billion." ...

Citing the nation's "appalling lack of knowledge about geography," ABC's "Good Morning America" yesterday announced that H.J. de Blij has been named Geography Editor for the show ...

De Blij, who has appeared on the show periodically since last September, is Distinguished Professor of Geography in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University (Captain Airwaves is pretty sure Georgetown is located in the Washington area but we've asked him to double-check) ...

GMA becomes the only network morning show with its own Geography Editor ...

And NBC News has announced that Deborah Norville will anchor a documentary on "Kids & Sports: Taking the Risk" at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11 ...

The "Today" co-anchor will examine "the physiology and psychology of young people in sports and the risks they face" ...

Correction

On Aug. 15, the TV Column erroneously reported that due to budget cuts, Channel 7 would reduce its weekday news programming to two hours daily. After its 5:30 a.m. news has ended, the station will still carry 2 1/2 hours daily on weekdays. We regret the error. And the delay in catching up with it ...