Norah O’Donnell’s days at the top spot at CBS Evening News may be numbered as cost-slashing execs at the broadcasting giant quietly search for her replacement amid sagging ratings. The 47-year-old anchor — who landed the evening slot in 2019 — now stands vulnerable to the network’s bean counters as her ratings have stayed stubbornly stuck in third place, according to sources close to the situation.
CBS Evening News Anchor Norah O’Donnell told a virtual gala audience, “It is vital that journalists provide information, not affirmation.”
From the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic and George Floyd protests around the world to the contested 2020 presidential election and last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by insurgents, O’Donnell says “journalism is more important than ever. There’s a thirst for information because there’s so much going on in the world.”
A big bet by “CBS Evening News” on Norah O’Donnell is beginning to look iffy. The former CBS This Morning host — who is getting paid at least $7 million a year by CBS News boss Susan Zirinsky to revive the perennially third-ranked newscast — is getting hammered in the ratings worse than her predecessors did.
Norah O’Donnell’s debut as the new CBS Evening News anchor drew much media fanfare but not so many viewers. The former co-host of CBS This Morning came in last place among evening shows on Monday despite a much-publicized premiere that included a sit-down with Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world.
Though Norah O’Donnell had her first turn as anchor of CBS Evening News Monday night, she didn’t rely on any attention-grabbing tricks to carry the day. O’Donnell delivered a no-nonsense newscast that was packed with information and left little time for gimmicks. Indeed, O’Donnell summoned the ghost of the celebrated Edward R. Murrow, who took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy with the CBS News TV program See It Now, in an effort to tell viewers what to expect from her tenure behind the desk.
This evening, CBS will introduce Norah O’Donnell as the anchor of its evening news show in the hope that she can restore it to its former glory. I’m skeptical. It’s going to take more that a new personality — even one as appealing as O’Donnell — to turn things around at CBS and, more important, to make the evening news genre relevant to the millions who have strayed away or who have never given it a chance.
Norah O’Donnell will make her CBS Evening News debut, of course, on TV. But that doesn’t mean CBS News isn’t mindful of the new ways in which news aficionados get their information in an era of smartphone alerts and viral tweets.