CBS News Announces Changes To Flagship Shows

May 6, 2019
Originally published on May 6, 2019 9:14 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There is a shakeup underway at CBS News. This morning, the network announced major changes to its flagship shows. This is Gayle King on "CBS This Morning."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CBS THIS MORNING")

GAYLE KING: We are announcing some major changes today moving forward, working to get even better at what we do.

GREENE: Those major changes come amid ratings concerns for "CBS This Morning" and also for the "CBS Evening News," and also after a series of harassment revelations rocked this network in recent years. Joining us now with more, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Good morning, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: So what is happening at CBS and why - or why is it happening now?

FOLKENFLIK: So let's first talk about what's happening. You're going to see Norah O'Donnell leave "CBS This Morning." It's - that's their morning news show. And she's going to become the anchor of "CBS Evening News," you know, the newscast once hosted by Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite...

GREENE: Yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: ...Storied show. She's replacing Jeff Glor, who's been there less than 18 months. You're going to see a little bit of circular - you know, rotating chairs happening on the morning show. She is doing that. John Dickerson is going to leave the morning show and become a correspondent for "60 Minutes."

And you're going to see the remaining - the show built around Gayle King, who's been there, who's really soared in recent years - but particularly, even in the last year, landing a bunch of news-making interviews, including a memorable one with R. Kelly, who's, you know, been accused of so many crimes.

GREENE: Memorable interview, to say the least.

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah, really intense and really brilliantly handled by King. And she'll be joined by Anthony Mason, longtime Saturday morning show host. He's been a longtime evening news anchor fill-in and a correspondent for the network. Anthony Mason will also be joined by Tony Dokoupil, a correspondent for the network. And those, you know, those figures will be rotating in and around these major programs.

GREENE: And what about the timing? I mean, is there something significant that CBS is going through all the shuffling at this moment? What does it tell us?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you've been seeing a lot of coverage and a lot of rumors and speculation about what was going to happen. CBS had won some audience and also gotten a lot of morale boost by pursuing harder news edge for its morning show and for the evening news. And yet, ratings had sagged in recent years. Jeff Glor, in some ways, was expected to be the solution. He replaced Scott Pelley after Pelley's ratings - after initial boost had had declined and there had been some tension between Pelley the former anchor, and former CBS News President David Rhodes. Glor was supposed to solve all this under Rhodes and had not done so.

And there'd been a question of, what's going to happen? The pairing of John Dickerson, the quite brilliant former moderator of "Face The Nation," had not had the same level of success as the morning show had had under Charlie Rose. And so they said something's going to happen. Zirinsky was named at the beginning of the year to shake things up, and the shake shake-up was hers.

GREENE: So is it just about ratings? Or how much of this has to do with the sexual harassment scandals that we've seen this network go through?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you've seen the network rocked by sexual harassment scandal from the top. Les Moonves, the chairman of CBS, the entire parent network and corporation, as well as Jeff Fager, the former chairman of CBS News and the longtime executive producer of "60 Minutes," which is far and away, in some ways, the most important show, certainly the moneymaker for CBS - "CBS Evening News" and "CBS This Morning" have sort of been perennial third-rated shows.

Charlie Rose's departure from "CBS This Morning" in late 2017 really rocked the chemistry and rocked the stability of CBS News. They had hoped Dickerson could stabilize that. This, in a sense, is the latest domino to fall from that. They want to stabilize the show. They want to stabilize the network. And Zirinsky, in particular, wants to show it's hers and she's going to find a path forward for CBS.

GREENE: All right. Big changes today at CBS News, and we'll be following them. NPR's David Folkenflik in New York. Thanks, David.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.