Changes at CBS News cement Gayle King as most influential face

"I would assume it’s [Gayle King's] call who she wants to work with. You have to read something into that," said one media analyst.
Image: 2019 Matrix Awards - Arrivals
Gayle King and honoree Norah O'Donnell attend the 2019 Matrix Awards on May 6, 2019 in New York.Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

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By Claire Atkinson

CBS confirmed a major overhaul of its biggest news programs on Monday, shaking up both its morning and evening news programming with the aim of drawing new viewers and new advertising dollars.

For the first time, women are at the helm of both the network's signature broadcasts.

The network said the current trio of anchors on “CBS This Morning” is being disbanded. Gayle King will lead the morning show and Norah O’Donnell will leave the show to replace Jeff Glor as the anchor of “CBS Evening News." The evening program will move from New York to a studio in Washington, where O'Donnell also maintains a home. Relocating the show inside the beltway, which King noted came from new CBS News President Susan Zirinsky, is also a tacit acknowledgement that politics will play a larger role in the network's news coverage.

“We’re going to do what CBS News does best, and that’s break news stories and I’m going to do it myself. I may be the anchor but I’m going to go back to reporting,” O'Donnell told NBC News Monday afternoon at the Matrix Awards, which honors women in communications.

“You got a lot of jobs,” King told O'Donnell on air Monday morning, noting that in addition to anchoring the evening news, O'Donnell would "serve as the lead anchor for political coverage, reporting on primaries and election night across the country."

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The new lineup essentially makes King the most influential and recognizable face of the morning show.

"I would assume it’s [Gayle King's] call who she wants to work with. You have to read something into that," said Chris Geraci, president and chief investment officer at Omnicom Media Group's OMD.

Two new co-hosts complete the morning revamp: Anthony Mason, currently an anchor on “CBS This Morning: Saturday" and CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil.

The sweeping changes appear to mark a pivot away from an unpleasant period for both the CBS News division and its parent company, after several high-profile exits related to sexual harassment allegations: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves resigned in September last year and Charlie Rose, a former co-anchor on “CBS This Morning” and correspondent for "60 Minutes," was fired in November 2017.

While both men deny the allegations against them, the scandal set off a wider legal inquiry into the culture at CBS News that led to a larger shakeup that saw the ouster of “60 Minutes” Executive Producer Jeff Fager, who stepped down after sending a threatening email to a reporter investigating sexual misconduct.

CBS News President David Rhodes and “CBS This Morning” Executive Producer Ryan Kadro also left.

With CBS viewership trailing for years in third position behind NBC and ABC, media analysts were upbeat about the network reshuffle.

“We view these as some strong moves,” said Geraci. "The hope is things will improve."

However, some questioned the strategy behind moving O'Donnell to anchor the evening news.

“That third place position may seem to warrant the replacement of anchor Jeff Glor," news analyst Andrew Tyndall told NBC News. "But such an assumption would not be justified. The under-performance of the newscast in attracting an audience under Glor is no worse than under any of his predecessors, dating all the way back to Dan Rather.”