''There is no excuse for it,'' Mr. Rather said in a telephone interview today. ''I did not grasp the possible ethical implications of this and that was wrong on my part.''
"While he questioned whether CBS should have acted at all to alter the reality of a scene in this way, he said, ''At the very least we should have pointed out to viewers that we were doing it.''
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''I'm certain we're not going to make blanket use of this technology,'' he said, but added that the network would definitely continue to use it on its morning news program.
"CBS recently poured more than $30 million into remaking that program, but it still lags badly behind in ratings. Mr. Heyward is also dealing with a ratings falloff for Mr. Rather's newscast."
. . .
''If somebody comes to New York and is surprised that it doesn't say 'The Early Show' in the middle of Fifth Avenue, I don't think we've committed a journalism sin,'' Mr. Heyward said. ''I don't want to apologize for being aggressive in exploiting this.''
"He said that he understood the argument against the use of the technology -- which is widely employed in sports and some entertainment shows -- on news programs. The danger is ''that it looks too real and therefore it's wrong or potentially wrong,'' he said. ''I certainly agree it's potentially subject to abuse.''
"He noted that advances in computer-generated techniques had made things like missiles hitting Baghdad and airplanes crashing look so real that it was incumbent on networks to underscore that these were not real images."