7. Sean McManus
President of CBS News
Last year’s rank: 3
Why he was chosen: The rebuilding plan at CBS News has not been without snags and expensive false starts. Katie Couric raced out of the gate with a staggering 13 million viewers in September and then proceeded to fade to the back of the pack, where “The CBS Evening News” has been stuck for what seems forever.
The $15 million-a-year anchor has lost viewers and demographic ground that Bob Schieffer had gained as the anchor in the interim between the hard-newsy Dan Rather and Ms. Couric, who wanted to soften the newscast.
After five months of trying to pump air back into the tires and change the paint color on the network’s flagship news vehicle while it was moving, executive producer Rome Hartman was out and the more grizzled, hard-edged Rick Kaplan was put in charge of “Evening News.” Mr. Hartman is widely expected to supplant Janet Leissner as CBS bureau chief in Washington, D.C.
While there is general agreement that Mr. Kaplan has tightened the pace and sharpened the news edge on “Evening News,” the jury beyond CBS News is still out on whether Ms. Couric’s “Today” star power can be converted to the presence required of a network’s flagship anchor.
Meanwhile, Mr. McManus has gone on a hiring spree to add young correspondents to CBS News’ on-air bench. He also hired TV analyst Jeff Greenfield away from CNN to beef up the political bench. Unable to lure CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta or Lou Dobbs, he has done the next best thing: made sharing deals to allow occasional contributions to “60 Minutes,” “CBS Evening News” and “The Early Show,” respectively.
Third-ranked “The Early Show” has improved its ratings and demographic makeup, but may be grabbing more attention for Morning Broadcast VP Steve Friedman’s campaign of criticism aimed at “Today,” the morning show he once executive produced.
Two of the undersung heroes of CBS News: “CBS Sunday Morning” and versatile “48 Hours” executive producer Susan Zirinsky. She has turned out an eclectic list of projects (including the weekly “webumentaries” accompanying “Jericho”) under the CBS EyeToo production label. Mr. McManus has made new-media growth a priority. Recently, it ran a “correction” on the blog “Couric & Co.” for an entry, not posted by Ms. Couric, that owed too much to a Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow.