The obligatory "Brit Hume stepping down at Fox News" post

Anchors away:

Sources familiar with the situation say that Hume, 65, will give up his job as Washington managing editor and anchor of “Special Report.” They say he is near a deal to continue with Fox in a senior statesman role, not unlike that of Tom Brokaw at NBC, for roughly 100 days a year.

In his new role, Hume would be a senior political analyst, anchor special events, serve as a panelist on “Fox News Sunday” and occasionally substitute for the host, Chris Wallace.

He’ll be there through the end of the year so election night coverage should proceed as usual. I’m always surprised by how much respect Hume commands among conservatives, not because he doesn’t deserve it but because you’d think he’d be drowned out by the O’Reilly and Hannity megaphones. Not so; in my conversations with people, as genial, gentlemanly conservative journalists go, he’s second in esteem to no one but … Tony Snow, actually. Where are Fox viewers going to get their nightly shot of gravitas now? The closest to Hume in that regard is Wallace but I doubt he wants to do five shows a week. Bret Baier is solid but he’s not a trademark FNC personality the way the rest of the late afternoon and evening crew is.

Given how short the supply is of hard-newsy TV reporters with star power, I’m guessing they may tweak the show by cutting back on straight news reporting (they have Shep at 7 p.m. for that) and emphasize the panel format more heavily, a la Hardball. That way there’s less pressure on the moderator and they get to inject something new into that calcified 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. line-up that they’ve had forever. Commenters in our Headlines item are suggesting Ingraham and Mark Steyn, both of whom would be great but are probably too overtly partisan for the task. Any suggestions?

Update: Headlines comments imported.

Update: I just had a terrible thought.