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McManus Wants Single Lead Anchor for ‘CBS Evening News’

Jan 19, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Aside from fending off numerous questions about whether or not he’s making an offer to NBC’s Katie Couric, CBS News President Sean McManus suggested at the Television Critics Association press tour he was interested in targeting a single lead anchor for “CBS Evening News” as opposed to going with a pair or a team.

At the TCA Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif., on Wednesday, Mr. McManus expressed his interest in focusing “on finding a primary anchor for CBS news.”

“Having one person as a primary anchor is the way to go,” he said.

While Ms. Couric was the name most often brought up by reporters during Mr. McManus’ first TCA session since he assumed the top news job for the network, he refused to mention any names who might be in consideration or give the number of candidates being discussed.

“All I can say is relatively few, just because there are relatively few people out there that have the profile and experience,” Mr. McManus said.

As for the possibility that someone from outside the current CBS news organization would be selected, Mr. McManus said that was “probably the case.”

Asked if he had a schedule for when he would have a new anchor, Mr. McManus wouldn’t go into specifics.

“I do, but I can’t talk about the timetable,” he said, noting that interim anchor Bob Schieffer, whom he called the “oldest overnight sensation I know,” has exceeded the network’s expectations. “The good news is Bob is in place if we want him to for at least a year. This is not a short-term process in that I would much rather take the next couple of months or number of months.”

Whoever is named the new anchor will not be bringing his or her own executive producer, Mr. McManus said. Rome Hartman, who was recently named the “Evening News” executive producer, “is there for the long run,” he said. “He has no attachment to any traditional ways that it has been done in the past.”

Addressing comments made by “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney in an interview with Larry King that any money the network spends on a high-priced anchor should be spent on more correspondents and reporting, Mr. McManus said finances will not be a factor in covering stories.

“One thing I can tell you, the amount of money we pay to the anchor will not affect our resources,” he said.

Mr. McManus declined to express an opinion about whether his predecessors in the news division had done enough to groom a successor to former anchor Dan Rather, but he said that moving forward he is interested in giving correspondents beats that will allow them to build a relationship with the audience and give them more time to be promoted by the newscast itself.

“There should be at any given time a small group of people that could fill in and do the job admirably,” he said.