Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Three days after being announced as a new co-host on CBS This Morning, former CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O’Donnell joined her fellow hosts Charlie Rose and Gayle King along with her CBS News bosses on a TCA panel to promote the news division. O’Donnell replaces Erica Hill. It was made clear that the timing of the shakeup isn’t coincidental and comes as the Presidential election enters the homestretch. “It really is about Norah and her abilities,” said CBS News chairman Jeff Fager. “We just feel like in terms of where we’re going, and with Norah’s experience in reporting and where we’re going with our broadcast, that she’s just such a perfect fit. Especially going into the election, coming right out of the White House, she just adds so much. And Erica’s been a great pro for us. She helped launch this program. We hope she stays. We just think this is a better fit.” For her part, O’Donnell said that she was “thrilled” to be on the broadcast. “It’s an exciting time,” she added. “Two hours of live television. There’s nothing else like it. I think we’re now 100 days out from the election so we’ve got two conventions coming up, three Presidential debates, one Vice Presidential debate, so I’m excited to join them on politics and do what I do best. Also some new stuff. I made the decision this week.”
A bit awkwardly, it was only last week that O’Donnell had said of her guest stint on CBS This Morning “I told Erica Hill, who is letting me fill in for her, that I promised not to leave too many crumbs on her keyboard.” Reminded of this fact today, O’Donnell didn’t miss a beat. “Erica is fabulous, a total pro”, she said. “I’m a huge fan of hers, and I hope she stays with CBS.”
Fager was also asked during the session how CBS News has managed to avoid some of the embarrassing mistakes that have plagued its network competitors lately. “I’m not going to say we’re not going to make mistakes. We will make mistakes,” he insisted. “But we have instilled in our entire organization attention to accuracy and fairness. First is not as important, period. We don’t operate that way. I can’t speak for the other organizations, all I can say is that I think it comes from real discipline and a real sense of what matters to our news organization which is original reporting and helping people better understand the story … I think there’s a risk in some ways that people take their eyes off the ball.” Added CBS News president David Rhodes: “The most important thing to us is to be accurate.” With regard to finding a replacement for the late Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes, Rhodes said he’s in no hurry, well aware of the pitfalls that would befall any replacement having to follow a legend. “We don’t have anyone in mind for that position,” he said. When asked if Jon Stewart might be a good choice, he replied, “If you have an inkling that Jon Stewart wants to do it, I’d be happy to talk to him.”
It was announced earlier in the session that the trial expansion of CBS’ Face The Nation to a full hour is permanent. The Sunday magazine show had been expanded from a half-hour to an hour in the spring for a 20-week trial. “Thanks to the support of viewers that have made it the Number 1 show on the stations that carried the expanded show, we’re able to announce that the broadcast is going to stay an hour into the fall,” Rhodes said, although not every CBS affiliate carries the expanded version. Separately the network also announced Anthony Mason is a new regular co-host with Rebecca Jarvis on the Saturday edition of CBS This Morning.