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What Katie Couric’s likely successor will bring
Pelley comes without the detractors that stuck with Couric almost from the start, but also without her public profile. He can also seem stiff and formal on the air _ the same criticism that current ratings leader Williams faced when he took over for Tom Brokaw at NBC.
That’s not necessarily bad, Tyndall said. Williams grew into his job and Pelley has the potential to do the same. “It allows you to work into the job rather than have the job change to fit you,” he said.
“He has Texas manners and he has Texas gentlemanly ways,” Rather said. “In today’s world, that strikes people as old-fashioned and stiff. I don’t see it that way at all. It strikes me as genuine.”
The only question Rather has about Pelley is his ability in special news situations that require long hours and ad-libbing, because it’s something he hasn’t done. But Rather said he believed Pelley had the skill to succeed.
Some who know Pelley also suggest he’d be good for morale, because he is known for reaching out and taking notice of others around him who have done good work. Couric has clearly been a polarizing figure at CBS News.
One question for CBS will be whether Pelley can maintain his connection to CBS’ showcase news program, “60 Minutes,” which Fager is still producing. Both Rather and Couric also worked for “60 Minutes,” but their presence there was more nominal than real. Pelley has been a mainstay of the show. There’s a new emphasis at CBS News in trying to tie the broadcasts together; Fager’s top deputy recently scolded “The Early Show” leaders in a memo that quickly circulated on the Web for not highlighting reporting from “60 Minutes” and other CBS newscasts.
Another, more profound worry for CBS is that its evening newscast has become a permanent No. 3 _ much like its morning show has been for half a century. The evening newscast has been a clear No. 3 for more than a decade, and Couric couldn’t change that. It is handicapped by weak programming leading into the newscast at many CBS stations. CBS’ strength has always been in the heartland, and many of those viewers follow Shepard Smith at Fox News Channel, Tyndall said.
Pelley likely won’t make much of an immediate ratings impact, Rather predicted.
“It won’t be easy,” he said. “It will take time and probably a little bit of luck. But I do think they can move up.”
CBS is a division of CBS Corp.
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