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CBS looks to Jeff Glor to give 'CBS Evening News' a digital boost

Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Any changes to "CBS Evening News" will happen gradually. While the network is intent on courting more digital news viewers, it does not want to alienate longtime fans.

When the network hired Katie Couric away from NBC to be the anchor of "CBS Evening News" in 2006 -- the only time in its history it went outside its own talent roster to fill the job -- it also tinkered with the format and viewership plummeted.

Some of the audience was restored during the "CBS Evening News" tenure of "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley, who held the job for five years until May, when he went back to the news magazine full time. (Anthony Mason took over on an interim basis.)

But even when a broadcast is losing viewers, as "CBS Evening News" was under Pelley, an anchor change can disrupt viewing habits.

"For CBS the change is a gamble," said Tom Bettag, visiting fellow at the University of Maryland's Merrill School of Journalism and a former network news producer. "With Pelley at the helm, 'Evening News' had a clear identity, that of being a class act, where the newsies go for news. It was a natural fit with the enormously successful '60 Minutes,' 'CBS This Morning,' and 'Sunday Morning.' Jeff Glor is an unknown quantity. The question is whether the choice of a significantly different anchor necessarily means a change in the tone of the broadcast."

CBS News President David Rhodes said he is well aware of the risk that comes with change. But the network's research shows that "CBS Evening News" has lagged behind ABC and NBC because it has not been able to distinguish itself from its competitors.

"I feel like we're producing a better news report each evening but rightly or wrongly a lot of the audience thinks that all the shows are the same," Rhodes said. "As long as the audience thinks they are interchangeable the competitive situation will stay what it is. They are asking, 'What's my incentive to change if everything is the same?' "

Glor does not have the name recognition of other TV news stars because he never shows up on gossip websites or the New York tabloids. These days that can be seen as a plus. His transition to the anchor chair comes as the network searches for a replacement for veteran journalist Charlie Rose, its "CBS This Morning" co-host who was fired last month over sexual harassment incidents that allegedly happened at his now-canceled PBS talk show.

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Known for his versatility, Glor not only filled in for Rose on "CBS This Morning" but also served as a substitute host on his PBS talk show. In addition to covering major breaking news at CBS, he has filled in on the anchor desks and done long-form pieces for "CBS Sunday Morning" and "60 Minutes Sports" for Showtime.

For an anchor charged with giving his news division a digital boost, Glor's office at its Manhattan headquarters has a low-tech look, thanks to the shelves and stacks of paperbacks and hardcover books. A voracious reader, he also keeps downloaded digital copies of many of the titles on his iPhone for when he's on the road reporting for the network.

"It's like oxygen for me," the Buffalo, N.Y., native and married father of two children said as he scrolled through dozens of e-book covers on his iPhone during a recent interview. "I'll pay for a book twice. I like supporting authors."

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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