Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Growing up, we were always a Cronkite household.  I later worked for a CBS affiliate for about seven years, so I've always been a CBS follower.  Even to this day, when I'm up late, I'll watch the CBS Evening News.  It seems to be the newsiest of the three evening broadcasts.  Sorry, Diane.

The 7 AM broadcast used to be called the "CBS Morning News."  I liked it.  It was "the news."  Then, in an effort to catch the other guys, CBS dropped "news" from the title because it reasoned that people were frightened and turned off by "news" in the morning.  In came cooking, fashion tips, and celebrity babble.  Anchors rotated in and out on a regular basis.  You never knew who you'd see in the morning.  There was some real talent in there-- Harry Smith, Forrest Sawyer, Paula Zahn, Bryant Gumbel, Jane Clayson, Bob Schieffer, Diane Sawyer...

Nothing worked.

Last week, CBS announced it was blowing up its morning show yet again.  Beginning in January, Charlie Rose, Gayle King, and Erica Hill will lead a newsy MSNBC "Morning Joe" style discussion show.

I admire CBS for trying something different.  Rose is a skilled interviewer.  I'm not sure if he's morning material.  King had a talk show that died from low ratings.  She's now on her pal Oprah's network.  Like most of America, I haven't seen it.  Hill works the morning show now, and I think she's okay.

From what I've read, CBS has realistic expectations for the new morning broadcast.  The network hopes to draw an affluent, intelligent audience.  It reminds me of the 80's NBC series "St. Elsewhere."  The medical drama never got huge numbers, but it attracted upper socio economic groups, and advertisers loved it, so NBC kept "St. Elsewhere" on the schedule for six years and 137 episodes.

How times have changed.  CBS went the anti news route in 1987 with something called "The Morning Program" hosted by actress Mariette Hartley, possibly one of the worst shows in the history of television.

I'll give the new CBS morning show a try next year, but I fear I'll go back to my normal morning routine-- channel surfing from broadcast to cable until I find some real news.