ABC and CBS in No Hurry to Name Permanent Anchors
Even though Dan Rather retired months ago and Peter Jennings is now dead, their networks are in no rush to name their replacements.
Little urgency at ABC, CBS, to name successors (USA Today)
ABC announced Monday that it has dropped Peter Jennings’ name from World News Tonight, one week after the veteran anchor died of lung cancer at 67. “Of all people,” ABC News president David Westin said in a staff memo, “Peter insisted on accuracy. As much as we would have it otherwise, from now on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings will be known as World News Tonight.”
That announcement underlines key questions facing ABC and CBS: With Jennings’ death and Dan Rather’s premature departure in March, who will lead their broadcasts, and in what format? Neither network appears to be in any rush to make a decision.
ABC, still reeling from Jennings’ death, “is not close” to discussing a successor on World News, ABC News spokesman Jeff Schneider says. Good Morning America‘s Charles Gibson and 20/20‘s Elizabeth Vargas will continue to alternate as anchors. And CBS News president Andrew Heyward says CEO Leslie Moonves has set no “firm timetable” on unveiling a new CBS Evening News, which is now anchored by Bob Schieffer.
[N]either CBS’ nor ABC’s ratings have suffered much since Rather stepped down and during Jennings’ illness. That not only takes the pressure off the networks but it also is a sign that viewers are drawn to newscasts for stories, not star anchors, network news analyst Andrew Tyndall says. “You have to stop thinking in terms of big anchors and salaries and start thinking about formats and where the most interesting stories on these broadcasts can be repurposed,” he says. “The days when news divisions threw gobs of money at celebrity journalists and an all-star lineup under one banner are over.”
Fox News figured that out years ago. Certainly, Brit Hume was a well-established reporter, having been ABC’s White House correspondent, but he is not the focus of the Fox Special Report broadcast. Similarly, there’s no reason for CBS to be in a hurry to replace Bob Schieffer, who is affable, competent, and trustworthy.