Less than two months into his new job as anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” Scott Pelley is taking some time off, heading out of the country, we’re told. Pelley also remains a correspondent on “60 Minutes.” Bob Schieffer, who anchored the program for 17 months in 2005-2006, will be filling in for Pelley for the next two weeks. Pelley returns to the show Monday, August 1.
At one point during his run, Schieffer brought the newscast to #2 behind NBC “Nightly News,” in the days before Charlie Gibson began his run on ABC’s “World News Tonight.” Schieffer was the interim anchor between Dan Rather and Katie Couric.
I more than humbly acknowledge that I bear no resemblance to the stunning McAdams or her fictional character. Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, however, are, hauntingly at times, dead ringers for Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer, whom I produced for more than five years in the morning.
It was September of 1960, and NBC News correspondent Sander Vanocur was on the campaign trail. “I was covering [Richard] Nixon in Mississippi,” Vanocur tells TVNewser, “and I got a call from NBC in New York to say, ‘Get to Chicago.’”
He was being summoned to serve as a questioner in the first-ever televised presidential debate. The face-off between Nixon and John F. Kennedy would end up being watched by an estimated 70 million viewers.
TVNewser met up with Vanocur on Sunday in Chicago, where he participated in a panel discussion to mark the 50th anniversary of the debate.
Vanocur began his broadcast career in London with CBS News. After a stint with the New York Times, he returned to TV in 1957, joining NBC News and covering politics and the White House. Vanocur moved to PBS in 1971 before joining ABC News in 1977, where he spent 14 years.
Today, at 82, Vanocur lives in Santa Barbara, California and runs a consultancy, Old Owl Communications. He’s also developing television programming for seniors. “We’re living longer,” Vanocur says. Such viewers “ought to be appealed to.”
TVNewser: Were the 1960’s the golden age for television news?
Vanocur: No, I don’t think they were the golden age. They were just a wonderful time. You see, there weren’t any rules in those days. So we more or less made things up as we went along. And there were no people who could say, ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘You can’t do that’, because nobody knew what you could do or couldn’t do.
TVNewser: What network newscasts do you watch today? And what cable newscasts?
I watch Fox [News Channel], and I watch MSNBC – Keith Olbermann – and I watch CNN.
TVNewser: You once said that “the media claims to be reflecting our discontents, but I have come to believe that they are inciting our discontent”. Can you explain what you meant by that, and are there any broadcasters in particular who come to mind in this regard?
Even as the oil continues to gush from the sea floor, and the networks shuttle their anchors to points along the Gulf coast, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News and the CBS Evening News continue to lose viewers. All three broadcasts were down in Q2 2010 compared to the same period last year.
In numbers released today, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams lost -440,000 viewers (-140k in A25-54 demo) compared to Q2 2009. ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer lost -260,000 viewers (-80k demo) (Charlie Gibson was anchor in 2009). The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric lost the most, based on a percentage, losing -340,000 viewers (30k demo) compared to Q2 2009. ABC and CBS were also down when Q2 2008 is compared to Q2 2009.
Numbers for Q2 2010:
Numbers for Q2 2009
Q1 2010 was not kind to the evening newscasts either. World News and Evening News saw their lowest averages ever for the first three months of 2010. And it was ’round about this time last year those two broadcasts hit all-time ratings lows. It should be noted the anchors, CBS’ Couric and ABC’s Gibson, were off that week.
We’ll have last week’s Evening News ratings later this afternoon…
“CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric, “ABC World News” anchor Diane Sawyer, and “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams appeared together on all three networks for the first time this morning. Each of their network’s morning shows aired a special segment earlier today featuring the three anchors who are promoting the “Stand Up to Cancer” cause.
On September 10th, a one-hour commercial-free fundraiser will appear on ABC, CBS, and NBC as well as a handful of cable nets. The trio host the broadcast, which is set to feature celebrities, athletes, and musicians.
Sawyer admitted that she was nervous on her first day anchoring “World News with Diane Sawyer,” but said outgoing anchor Charlie Gibson gave her some parting advice: “The best thing he said to me was make sure before the broadcast, you spend some time by yourself. just sit and think in a room by yourself a little bit about what you want to do. I think that was great.”
She also told them her husband, director Mike Nichols, is particularly happy about the switch. “He really loves it,” she told Regis. “He said there’s so much more of you now.”
Sawyer and Philbin had a long chat about the time she kissed him on the lips. “It was just one of those issues where two adult people got carried away,” Philbin joked.
“ABC World News” anchor Diane Sawyer will sit-down with President Obama on Monday for an interview ahead of the State of the Union, according to the show’s producer Jon Banner.
Banner writes, “We have had a long standing request to talk to the President before his State of the Union speech Wednesday night and it comes after arguably the most difficult week for his administration.”
The interview will air on Monday Evening’s “World News,” which Sawyer will anchor from Washington.
Says a network insider, “Really? Obama’s third interview with ABC in 40 days — two in less than one week. This is starting to look very suspicious.”
> Update: An NBC News spokesperson tells us, “NBC News did not file a formal or informal complaint about this interview.”
> Earlier: TVNewser has learned that NBC News has filed a formal complaint with expressed concern to the White House press office over the distribution of presidential interviews, specifically that several of the most recent broadcast TV interviews have gone to ABC News — including George Stephanopoulos‘s interview yesterday and Charlie Gibson‘s on December 15.
Complaints reportedly stem from Stephanopoulos’ friendship with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for helping land the interviews. But insiders tell us those decisions are generally left to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
ABC News spokesperson Jeffrey Schneider tells TVNewser, “We are always aggressive in our booking efforts and we were glad to have an interview with the President on such a big news day.”
Last year, NBC News got several days of access at the White House, including sit-down interviews with Pres. Obama for their “Inside the Obama White House” special — a series NBC has participated in for the last 40 years.
> More: It should be noted that complaints are often made to the White House press office when one network feels another is getting too much access.