According to a new report from TMZ and picked up by Fox, CBS will play it safe and turn to an in-house talent in Scott Pelley to replace Katie Couric as its evening news anchor. The decision came personally from the new CBS News chairman, Jeff Fager, who apparently took the job with the condition that he could name the next anchor. However, Fager didn’t exactly have a wide range of options:
“60 Minutes” correspondent, is the choice of CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager. We’re told Fager, who became Chairman in February, took the position on thecondition he could decide who takes the desk.
We’re told Pelley, 53, is the choice for two reasons. First, he’s well-liked and respected by his bosses, and second … there really is no second choice who is appealing to the CBS honchos.
Even if CBS wanted to take a flyer on an out-of-the-box choice, they don’t have many options. The reason they have to make this choice now is because of their last out-of-the-box choice to hire Couric away from NBC’s Today show, hardly a training ground for hard news presentations. Couric’s four-year run failed to lift the network from its last-place position among broadcast networks, even with her status as the first female anchor since Connie Chung shared duties with Dan Rather and the first female solo anchor. Couric says that the weight of CBS history and local station performance accounts for the lack of improvement:
“I believe we were in third place for 13 years before I got here,” she said, according to the New York Post. “And I think habits, particularly with an evening news broadcast, move at a glacial pace. And I think that local news stations have something to do with it.”
Couric came at a time when the network news broadcasts were already sliding towards irrelevancy. Couric’s hiring briefly halted that trend, but the truth is that the era of people waiting until 7 pm ET to get their news in a 30-minute presentation ended years ago. The advent of cable news networks and the expansion of cable and broadband Internet access has put the nightly broadcast-network news shows in the same category as tube TVs built into wooden consoles. The fact that Couric’s talent applies more to talk shows than news reading didn’t help matters, but in the end didn’t matter.
Pelley will be better suited for the task, but don’t expect a sudden resurgence in viewership. The 30-minute nightly news broadcast is little more than an anachronistic habit. Pelley would do better work if he stuck to the news magazine format, and CBS would be better advised to start its own cable news network instead.