Dan Rather to cover primary for HDNet

Will be on the air at least two hours Tuesday night

Dan Rather's back in the saddle again.

The former "CBS Evening News" anchor will be on the air Tuesday night at HDNet for at least two hours of coverage of the North Carolina and Indiana presidential primaries. The coverage, which will partly air in the "Dan Rather Reports" time slot, will be televised live in front of an audience at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Guests include former U.S. Rep. Tony Coelho, D-Calif., political experts Donald Fowler and Peter Hart and media critic Tom Rosenstiel.

It's the fourth such nights of election coverage for Rather, who presided over two decades' worth as the CBS anchor. Without taking anything away from what the broadcast and cable nets do, Rather said that, by circumstance and design, HDNet is doing something different.

"If all we can do is do what the others do, there's no reason to do these programs," Rather said. "We're trying to take the audience inside the political process." So instead of video walls and short bursts of analysis between exit polls and election results, Rather and his team are going to have what he calls a "conversation" about the results and what they mean.

There's no big network decision desk. HDNet is depending instead on the exit polling and results of the Associated Press and, with credit, what the other networks are calling. But Rather said it's worked fine so far: "We've been as quick as anybody, and in one case quicker, in making calls on the race. That's not our major emphasis, however."

The show is scheduled to run from 7 -9 p.m. EDT, with a repeat from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. The later telecast will at the very least have an update on the results if it's a "breathtakingly close race," as Rather describes it. But he said that he doesn't expect there to be additions to the repeat.

"We intend to be on until -- and a little bit beyond -- the issue has been decided," Rather said.

This could be the last coverage of the primaries from HDNet. Rather said that it's not clear whether there will be more special coverage of the primaries or even the conventions themselves beyond what he does in "Dan Rather Reports."

"We haven't decided what we'll do at the conventions," he said. "If they're just going to be infomercials, we're going to do nothing." But he said that it's likely that HDNet will offer coverage of election night.