This might be subtitled, ""Everything You Wanted to Know About CBS News But Were Afraid Someone Might Tell You."" CBS Inc. has been examined critically in previous books, but its journalists--generally conceded to be the best in the business--have usually escaped unharmed. Here, they are left twisting slowly in the wind. Gates, a former CBS News writer, paints an unpretty picture of famous correspondents and not-so-famous producers hustling for promotions like monkeys scrambling for nuts; executives betraying each other for a shot at the presidency of the news division. And hovering over this mad scene of talented, power-hungry newsmen, the watchful, terrifying, oversized figure of Board Chairman William S. Paley, occasionally judging a news show by the condition of his stomach. The major news events--Vietnam, Watergate--serve merely as backdrops for the stories of the men who covered them, from the legendary Edward R. Murrow to ""Old Iron Pants"" Walter Cronkite. Tracing their careers from small newspapers or radio stations to the dazzling White House or State Department beat, Gates concedes their abilities but finds few heroes. News President Richard Salant, Producer Don Hewitt, Charles Collingwood, and Cronkite fare quite well, but even they do not come out unscathed. The author seems to have been privy to an amazing number of ""private"" conversations in the executive suites at ""Black Rock,"" and one can imagine the embarrassment, even bitterness, that may follow the airing of so much soiled linen. Embarrassing demotions and dismissals have been covered up in the past by cleverly worded publicity announcements, for, as Gates points out, ""a news organization's solemn commitment to 'The public's right to know' tends to weaken when the matter in' question concerns its own internal affairs."" Breezy, anecdotal, and beautifully organized, Air Time is anything but a publicity handout.