Not that it carries the cachet it used to, but one of the select positions in the news business was as the anchor of the CBS Evening News. Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather each spent years as anchor, many of the years in each of their tenure’s as number 1 in the ratings. Connie Chung and Bob Schieffer for short stints. And Katie Couric. But not, apparently, for long. The current anchor and managing editor of the Tiffany Network’s flagship newscast is on her way out as her contract ends this summer. If you believe Monday’s news reports.
At least one person mentioned to me today that CBS made a mistake giving the news to a morning show anchor. I had to remind them that Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer all anchored morning shows before moving to the evening anchor chair.
I alternated between watching Peter Jennings and Rather. I didn’t quite see Dan as the liberal tool that many conservatives believe he was. He was a bit quirky, which made the news interesting. I do think he made his own bed with the mess over the story about President Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard. Dan has been a journalist long enough to know that if you go on the air with shoddy sourcing, it’s gonna bite you in your big Texas butt.
NBC planned for change. Tom Brokaw could still be doing an excellent job of anchoring the Nightly News. But he was ready to step down, and he knew soon enough for his network to groom Brian Williams for the anchor desk. I think the suits in charge at CBS knew for years that their preference would have been to ease Dan toward the door – but they never asserted themselves and made the decision to start that process.
When he did leave (don’t let the door hit you on the way out!), CBS had no plan. Bob Schieffer – a fine journalist – was put in place on a temporary basis while Les Moonves hatched his plot to bring star power to the news. I wasn’t a “Today Show” fan, but I knew Katie was popular. Popular enough to bring viewers to the network? A lot of people didn’t think so. No gravitas they said. No depth. No hard news credentials. Hey, she didn’t suck. But CBS had its share of problems before she got the gig. CBS lost a bunch of strong big market affiliates to Fox in the mid-1990s. Without strong local news lead-ins, the network news isn’t going to do well. In my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, the CBS affiliate is incredibly strong. And there, Katie has the #1 network newscast.
So now, Jeff Fager, head honcho of “60 Minutes,” is now the boss of the entire news division. The talk is that he’s willing to give Katie a slot on that show when she leaves the anchor desk. Of course, she part of the deal to bring her to CBS in the first place was to make her a regular contributor to “60,” but for some reason, that never happened. There’s also talk of giving Couric a daytime talk show. CBS happens to be a major syndicator. Their biggest daytime offering right now? Oprah. Once she rides off in the sunset to her own network (see what I did there? ‘own network…’ Oprah Winfrey Network… huh? huh?).
Anyway, I though John Roberts should have gotten the job instead of Couric back in 2006. Well, he left CBS when he was passed over, stopped off at CNN, where he found himself a really beautiful woman and started a family and is now working at Fox News. Rumors point to Scott Pelley as a possible replacement, just like in ’06. And Harry Smith, who was just booted off the morning show is also a potential replacement. Whoever you pick CBS, don’t let it be Anderson Cooper. Unless you make him co-anchor with Kathy Griffin.