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A Simple Answer to the Anchor Question



As proof that we in the blogosphere tend to stick together, I got an intriguing offer from the folks who put together CBS' Public Eye blog today.

Apparently, they saw my post about Brian Montopoli's essay on Dateline NBC and liked it enough to ask me if I might write something for their Outside Voices column -- in which they fearlessly allow knuckleheads like yours truly to take potshots at CBS on their cyberspatial dime. Way cool.

Unfortunately, they have been drowning in advice about how to choose their next anchor, so they weren't very interested in my first idea.

Still, I think its interesting enough for someone to read, so I'll post it here and you guys decide. It goes something like this:

They may not realize it, but CBS TV president Les Moonves, CBS News president Sean McManus and their minons already have a perfect example of how to draft the next anchor to lead CBS News.

And he's sitting at NBC News.

Think about it. Brian Williams was the heir apparent for years at the peacock network, groomed for the job over time through significant overseas assignments and lots of time subbing for the big guy. His transition was choreographed long in advance and the change only boosted the show's ratings.

By all accounts, Bob Schieffer has things well in hand at the CBS Evening News. His ratings are rising and his newscast has earned plaudits from critics across the country. So why screw that up by shoehorning in a famous face already burdened with his (or her) own baggage?

CBS News needs to turn to its bench. Take a long look at Byron Pitts, Lara Logan, Scott Pelley, Russ Mitchell, Troy Roberts, Rita Braver or someone else (they already lost a great contender, former 60 Minutes II correspondent Vicki Mabrey, to ABC in November). After they pick a person, they should spend the next two years publicly and confidently developing them into CBS' next anchor.

NBC showed them how to do this right. ABC, with its hasty moves and horrible luck stands to lose its second co-anchor later this year when Elizabeth Vargas has her second baby -- her pregnancy was announced today. The Alphabet Network moved too quickly and will likely wind up relying on the same two people who have propped up their news department for years: Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer.

What we know about TV news audiences is that they take a while to warm to changes. And the past 18 months have been about the most unstable the industry has seen in a while. CBS will be tempted to try swooping in with a big name, to take advantage of ABC's misfortune. But Sawyer and Gibson are still a potent duo, and personalities like Katie Couric are broadcast news' equivalent of Hillary Clinton -- popular with some, but polarizing for many.

Here's hoping Moonves and McManus aren't too proud to learn from the best move its competitor has made in a long while.

That's it. Lemme know what you think below. And if you have any ideas on what I should pitch to Public Eye next, feel free to post that, too...

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:35pm]


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