Osgood Earns Kudos for Lifetime Achievement

Apr 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

At a turbulent network news division, CBS’s “Sunday Morning” has been an oasis of calm. From September 2004 through early April, the show has been tops in its time period with a Nielsen Media Research household rating of 3.6/11 and 4.94 million viewers.

“Sunday’s” host for the past 11 years, Charles Osgood, is being honored this week in Las Vegas by the Radio-Television News Directors Association with the Paul White Award recognizing lifetime achievement. The award is named after the first news director at CBS. Mr. Osgood spoke with TelevisionWeek contributing writer Daisy Whitney last week while waiting for his plane to take off from Chicago.

TelevisionWeek: What does the Paul White Award mean to you?

Charles Osgood: I think if you have worked at CBS as long as I have [it means a lot]. Paul White was the first [news director] there and set the standard for the work there.

TVWeek: Why you this year?

Mr. Osgood: I’m not sure it’s because of this year or because I’ve been at CBS for 30 years … This is a special, one-of-a-kind award and I have been in the audience when colleagues have been given them. But I can’t identify a particular thing [this year]. I think it’s more a recognition.

TVWeek: What stands out for you this year?

Mr. Osgood: It’s always a reflection of what has happened in the news. … We have an hour and a half and can do more reflective pieces and that is part of our niche. Because [on] Sunday morning our audience is sitting down and watching the broadcast. During the week, I suspect 99 percent of the [morning] audience is up and moving in and out of the room, so you have to put a small frame around what you do because you just don’t have the time. At ‘Sunday Morning’ I think our audience is in pajamas and getting their second cup of coffee and with their Sunday paper spread out on the floor. In other words, they are in a receptive mode and have the opportunity to watch without distraction.

TVWeek: What is the secret sauce in the show that makes it work well?

Mr. Osgood: First of all, I think a lot of television assumes the audience is not as smart as we are, and they talk down and talk down the pieces. My thought is the audience is actually smarter than we are.

TVWeek: The show has also added some slightly hipper elements while still letting Bill Geist and Eugenia Zuckerman do their thing. What do you think of what the show has done to be a little hipper?

Mr. Osgood: Our producer for the last five years has been Rand Morrison, and he felt we were being a little elitist. When we did a music piece it was always a classical music piece. We would never put a rock performer or country music performer on when I started 11 years ago. But now we do. It’s brought a lot to the broadcast.”

TVWeek: ‘Sunday Morning’ is a very different animal from what’s out there. While it’s certainly not in danger, how long can it last?

Mr. Osgood: In fact, on the contrary, it seems to be the ratings are improving. Right now we are winning the time period. So not only are we not being threatened with extinction, we are showing you can do the sort of things we do and get a sizable audience and a loyal audience that comes back every week.

TVWeek: What effect if any did all the turmoil at CBS last year have on ‘Sunday Morning,’ because it seems like an island of relative calm?

Mr. Osgood: Personally, I try to keep my head down. We’re sort of off in a corner of the schedule and we are all colleagues of theirs and it is difficult to see people under that much pressure and duress, but I think we did escape and [CBS was] pleased with the audiences we were getting and also with the quality of the broadcast.