The morning show makeovers continue.
At the start of the year, CBS jettisoned its “Early Show” format for “CBS This Morning” by retaining Erica Hill and adding Charlie Rose and Gayle King and adopting more of a hard-news approach.
Later, with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today” engaged in their strongest battle for the top ratings slot in almost two decades, “Today” replaced Ann Curry with Savannah Guthrie as Matt Lauer’s co-anchor just before the Summer Olympics.
Now change is coming to weekday mornings again. After the conventions, veteran political reporter Norah O’Donnell — who moved to CBS last summer after 12 years with NBC News — will inherit Hill’s chair at the “CBS This Morning” table alongside Rose and King. To hear the network’s executives tell it, it’s the right switch at the right time.
“It really is about Norah and her abilities,” explains Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News (and executive producer of “60 Minutes”). “In terms of where we’re going and her experience, her reporting, she’s just such a perfect fit. And especially going into the election, coming right off the White House (where O’Donnell has been a CBS News correspondent), she just adds so much.”
Leaving the nation’s capital to assume her New York-based “CBS This Morning” duties, O’Donnell says she’s “thrilled to be a part of the broadcast. It’s an exciting time. Two hours of live television [each weekday], there’s nothing like it. I’m excited to join Gayle and Charlie and do a lot of politics — what I do best — and also do some new stuff.”
Being utilized in CBS’ prime-time convention coverage and on the Sunday morning staple “Face the Nation,” O’Donnell reflects that her decision to switch networks was based on “doing quality broadcasting and doing great journalism. I think that’s what CBS stands for, and certainly, my reporting out of the White House has been aimed at that every day.”
O’Donnell adds that during her NBC News tenure, she “anchored [and] covered the White House, the Pentagon and Congress. Returning to the White House, it was fabulous to work with a managing editor like Scott Pelley (also the weeknight anchor of ‘CBS Evening News’), who has such a deep interest in not just news in general but also foreign news. That really helped me stretch as a reporter.”
It’s likely O’Donnell will find an early-hours haven for her style, given how “CBS This Morning” is described by co-anchor King, also famously known as Oprah Winfrey’s best friend.
“On one particular day, [we were] doing the 40th anniversary of Watergate,” King recalls. “One of the other networks was sitting there with Snooki. Somebody else was doing the ‘Dallas’ [revival]. I think it just speaks to trying to offer the audience an alternative, and that’s something I believe we do very well.”
Not surprisingly, Rose concurs, noting he enjoys getting “the first crack at the news” in contrast to ending the day with his ongoing PBS late-night program. “We’ve gotten not only the guests but also an array of reporters that I not only had great respect for coming in but can tap into. The schedule has not been an issue. In fact, the excitement of being there in the morning has been even more rewarding than I thought it might be.”