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Today marks the 50th day since the BP oil leak began in the Gulf of Mexico, and CBS’s Harry Smith anchored “The Early Show” from Grand Isle, Louisiana. “We’ve been covering it,” executive producer David Friedman told TVNewser, “But when you put an anchor there, it makes it feel more important to people.”

For Monday’s broadcast, Weather anchor Dave Price as well as contributing doctors Jennifer Ashton and Deb Turner Bell were dispatched to the region.

“This was a story we spent so much time covering and we felt like day 50 was something that we should be there for,” Friedman said, explaining that plans had been put into motion over the weekend with Smith flying out after Monday’s show. CBS announced Monday that the network’s evening and morning shows would be anchored from the region weekly. “Our feeling is that the story is such a big story, everyone is watching and caring about it, as they should, and we felt like we’re going to give it as much attention as possible.”

Friedman says he’s been working closely with “Evening News” EP Rick Kaplan to coordinate, but admits that the morning show format “does present some challenges.”

“The difference is– in evening news, it’s a little bit easier to cover your broadcast: it’s only 30 minutes and most of the broadcast is designated to that coverage,” Friedman explains. “With the morning shows, they’re two hours long. And you start with oil and end with cooking. It’s a weird thing. You have Harry Smith in the Gulf, but then you still have to do the lifestyle, fitness, cooking segments. And yes, you have Harry in a place where he’s out of pocket for those, but we have the people to cover us. ”

CBS named Friedman EP late last year, and he started in January, going from producing Lady Gaga performances and NBC’s New Years Eve broadcast to producing CBS’ morning coverage of the earthquake in Haiti just a few weeks later.

We chatted with the new boss about how “The Early Show” is changing and his transition to what he calls “the best job in television with the worst hours ever.” Read our Q&A after the jump.

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