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Posted by on Jan 18, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

CBS Could Replace Dan Rather With A Team

Stooges_3CBS is probably going to replace Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News with an anchorperson team — and we know just the three guys who are perfectly suited to fill Dan’s shoes.

Oh. They’re not available. SPREAD OUT!!!!

Since Rather and the 60 Minutes Wednesday crew poked their finger in the CBS eye with the Memogate fiasco, and an independent panel’s report issued a blistering report, CBS chief Leslie Moonves has been pondering how to place the ever REplaceable Rather.

Katie Couric (perky and a tough questioner)? Ted Koppel (great hair, dignity and a seeming descendent of Howdy Doody)? But now, upon reflection, it’s clear Moonves is using the Rather exit as a way to completely RETHINK the way the network has done the news:

CBS will probably replace Dan Rather on the evening news with a multi-anchor, perhaps multi-city format that changes the "antiquated" way of reporting the day’s top stories, CBS chief Leslie Moonves said Tuesday.

Moonves, who will ultimately select Rather’s replacement, said he believes many young viewers are turned off by a single "voice of God" anchor in the Internet age.

He spoke publicly about his search for the first time since Rather announced in late November that he was stepping down from the "CBS Evening News." Moonves stressed that he’s still considering all possibilities. It’s unclear whether a new format would be ready for when Rather leaves in early March, or whether an interim successor would be named.

"Those days are over when you have that guy sitting behind the desk who everyone believes to the `nth’ degree," Moonves told reporters. "It’s sort of an antiquated way of news telling and maybe there’s a new way of doing it."

Moonves conceded the turmoil at CBS News — where three executives and a producer were fired last week for their role in an ill-fated story about President Bush (newsweb sites)’s military service — has encouraged him to do something more dramatic.

So has the "CBS Evening News" status as a consistent and distant third behind NBC’s "Nightly News" with Brian Williams and ABC’s "World News Tonight" with Peter Jennings in the ratings, he said.

Nearly 30 million people watch the evening news on one of the three networks on most nights, but many of them are older. Young people tend to get their news in bits and pieces, from the Internet and cable, he said.

A smart comment. This indicates he’s looking at the whole communications picture. Rather was perfectly suited to the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s….but if you look at the whole picture it would indicate his time has in several ways (attitude, style) passed. MORE:

"We have to try and reinvent that," he said. "One of the ways we’re looking at is making it younger and more relevant, something that younger people can relate to as opposed to that guy preaching from the mountaintop about what we should and should not watch."

Asked twice, Moonves wouldn’t rule out a role on the evening news for Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, whose "The Daily Show" skewers politicians and the news media each night. Moonves is co-chief executive of Viacom, which owns both CBS and Comedy Central.

Except for a brief, ill-fated pairing of Rather with Connie Chung in the 1990s, evening news programs have had a single anchor for more than 20 years.

Anchor teams, like Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, are part of the evening news lore. The only real example of a multi-anchor format was when ABC News had Frank Reynolds, Peter Jennings, Max Robinson and occasionally Barbara Walters reporting from different cities from 1978 until Jennings took over alone in 1983.

BOTTOM LINE: CBS has to do something dramatic to put the Rather era behind it. But it’s not just that: Moonves is correct that networks have not yet adjusted to the 21st Century:

  • The days of the single person delivering the news as a requirement are over.
  • Broadcasting technology allows faster cuts, instantaneous remotes.  Why not make use of them?
  • The MTV age is the age of quick cuts. Comedy, drama, even political speeches seem to use short punchy segments more than they did years ago. The PACE of a newscast would seem faster if it’s multiple-anchored. And…of course…multiple anchors would allow the network to get the now-required "diversity" up there on the screen.

If you don’t like the ideas, as the guys above would say: "Pick out two…"

UPDATE: Greg Piper has some ideas on the team that should replace Rather.

THIS JUST IN! The Outside The Beltway Traffic Jam is up.

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