If Katie Couric thinks the world revolves around her, maybe it’s because we in the media all act like it does. My first thought upon hearing the news that Sean McManus was ceding control of CBS News to Jeff Fager was “what does this mean for Katie?”
In one of his first interviews as chairman of CBS News, Fager told B&C’s intrepid, young and threatening-to-all-of-us-old-timers Andrea Morabito that he doesn’t know what Katie wants to do.
Really? I could tell him: she wants to remain anchor of the CBS Evening News and she wants a raise. I think that’s been made pretty clear.
But simple economics alone explains why that won’t happen. Katie may stay, but she won’t be making $15 million any longer. The precipitous ratings decline of all network evening news casts, and the news department layoffs of the last two years inform us that news margins ain’t what they used to be. A news division’s employees – what’s left of them — have to eat too, you know. Katie’s chances of remaining the face of the CBS Evening News improve drastically if she’s willing to take a big pay cut. (Between you and me, Katie, $5 million a year is still pretty good money. It’s like $4.9999 million more than I make.)
What other options that leaves Katie have been well-explored: Syndicated talk show? Check. Multimedia production company? Check. Move to CNN? Check and mate. Piers Morgan got that job, and it certainly would have meant both a pay and viewership cut.
Whatever happens, I’m not worried about Katie. Worse comes to worst, she joins the cast of Glee. In the immortal words of Sue Sylvester: “I hate you, Diane Sawyer!”
Since it cannot be answered right now, let’s leave the Katie question hanging and take a quick look at the other executives involved in this announcement.
Fager, who I desperately want to spell as Faber for some reason, has been executive producer of CBS News’ legendary 60 Minutes since 2004. He will continue in that role as part of this new job, while executive editor Bill Owens takes on added responsibilities, reports TVNewser. Under Fager’s guidance, 60 Minutes has resumed its focus on breaking news stories, but he’s also tried to attract a younger audience, hiring Anderson Cooper and having him do pop-culture stories, like the CNN anchor’s upcoming three-country profile of Lady Gaga or his sit-down with hip-hop star Eminem.
Sean McManus, the son of legendary sports broadcaster Jim McKay, has been running both CBS News and Sports for the past six years. The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz (and the New York Times) notes that insiders say McManus has made it known that he wouldn’t run both divisions indefinitely and would eventually return to sports.
Last but not least, David Rhodes, 37, who has been brought in as president of CBS News and Faber’s second-in-command, has been on a quick rise. He was hired by Andy Lack, former president of NBC News, to run Bloomberg TV in 2008 at the age of 34. Prior to that, he was with Fox News for 12 years. He started his career at Fox as a production assistant, moving up through the ranks until he was VP of news.