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Reduced Role for Rooney on '60 Minutes'

Andy Rooney, whose folksy and often curmudgeonly essays have been a staple of “60 Minutes” for more than three decades, will end his regular weekly appearances on the program, CBS said Tuesday.

News anchor Andy Rooney
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News anchor Andy Rooney

Mr. Rooney, 92, has delivered 1,096 commentaries to the newsmagazine since becoming a regular contributor in 1978, according to CBS. He will formally announce his reduced role in essay No. 1,097 on Sunday night.

His essay will be “preceded by a segment in which Rooney looks back on his career in an interview with Morley Safer,” the network said in a statement.

“It’s harder for him to do it every week, but he will always have the ability to speak his mind on ‘60 Minutes’ when the urge hits him,” said Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of the show.

But people close to Mr. Rooney said it was unlikely that he would make many appearances, if any, in the future. The people, who did not want to be identified, said the plan for him to step away from the program had been in the works for some time. Because of the honored place he has occupied on the show, Mr. Rooney’s move is not being characterized in terms of a formal retirement, they said.

"There’s nobody like Andy and there never will be ... He’ll hate hearing this, but he’s an American original. " -Chairman of CBS News and Executive Producer, 60 Minutes, Jeff Fager

“There’s nobody like Andy and there never will be,” Mr. Fager’s statement said. “He’ll hate hearing this, but he’s an American original.”

Through CBS, Mr. Rooney declined to comment.

Mr. Rooney was noticeably absent when the newsmagazine started a new season on Sunday night, and he was not quoted in the announcement by CBS.

The change was first reported by TVNewser. In an interview with that Web site last year, Mr. Rooney said that he planned to work for “60 Minutes” until he “dropped dead,” and he added, “Until somebody tells me different, I’m not going to quit.”

For many viewers, Mr. Rooney’s weekly observations on the foibles of life, commerce and politics became a favorite feature of the program, which was for years the most watched on television. But even as his popularity soared, he occasionally ran afoul of some groups, including Hispanics, American Indians and gays and lesbians, because of his comments.

A war correspondent during World War II, Mr. Rooney joined the network in 1949 as a writer for a show called “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.” In the 1960s he wrote and produced television essays for the correspondent Harry Reasoner, and when CBS established “60 Minutes” in 1968, he produced some of Mr. Reasoner’s segments for the program. Ten years later he became a regular commentator.

“60 Minutes” remains by far the most popular newsmagazine on American television. The show has weathered any number of changes over the years, including the death of the correspondent Ed Bradley in 2006. Another veteran correspondent, Mike Wallace, retired from full-time work that year.