American broadcasting icon Dan Rather has just delivered his last broadcast as the anchor of CBS News, though he will continue to report for 60 Minutes. Rather signed off with the following as transcribed by Rather watchblog (they were the first to get it up):

We have shared a lot in the 24 years we’ve been meeting here each evening.

And before I say good night this night, I need to say thank you. Thank you to the thousands of wonderful professionals at CBS News, past and present, with whom it has been my honour to work with over these years.

And a deeply felt thanks to all of you, who have let us into your homes night after night. It has been a privilege and one never taken lightly. Not long after I first came to the anchor chair I briefly signed off using the word “courage.”

I want to return to it now, in a different way, to a nation still nursing a broken heart for what happened here in 2001, and especially to those who found themselves closest to the events of September 11.

To our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in dangerous places. To those who have endured the tsunami, and to all who have suffered natural disasters and who must find the will to rebuild.

To the oppressed and to those whose lot it is to struggle in financial hardship or in failing health. To my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all.

And to each of you, courage.

For the “CBS Evening News,” Dan Rather reporting. Good night.

Rather’s retirement has been overshadowed by the damaging “memogate” scandal over a discredited 60 Minutes report questioning Bush’s military service in the lead up to last year’s US Presidential election. Rather’s demise has sparked a debate about the future of “old media”, as bloggers claim Rather as their biggest scalp yet and network news audiences continue to decline. But Joan Walsh writes for Salon (Who killed Dan Rather?), “the old media isn’t dead yet — and the new media can never replace it”.

And Slate’s Jack Shafer examines the changing media environment and how the US networks should proceed as the “post-Rather era” begins. He notes that in 1980, 75% of Americans watching TV during the dinner hour tuned into an evening news broadcast from one of three major networks. But by 2003, that figure was down to 40%. The average network news viewer in the US is now 60 years old, according to industry analysts.