CBS News Chief Jeff Fager: We Lost Viewers During Katie Couric's Tenure
CBS News chairman Jeff Fager had some rather unkind words for Katie Couric on Wednesday.
Fager was at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, along with current "CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley. He expressed his confidence in Pelley, who started in June, saying, "I think there’s no doubt that some of the people who are tuning in are coming back.
He also took a bit of a swipe at Couric, saying, according to The Wrap, "I think we did lose some viewers in recent years" when Couric was the anchor of the "Evening News." The network's evening news ratings trailed behind NBC and ABC for the duration of Katie Couric's five-year tenure as anchor, hitting a twenty-year low for evening newscasts when Couric reported from Afghanistan in 2010. Her move to CBS in 2006 was highly anticipated, but failed to deliver the results that the network had hoped.
Fager made it clear that former evening news anchor Dan Rather would not be coming back to CBS any time soon. "Things ended so badly that it's difficult to see how it could be reconciled," he said, according to Deadline.
He was referring to Rather's exit in 2005, after it was revealed that a news report questioning George W. Bush's military service had relied on unauthenticated documents.
Fager expressed his fondness for Rather, saying, "He means so much to our organization." Pelley also called Rather "a great friend of mine and a mentor," noting that he was the first person to congratulate him on his promotion to anchor.
Pelley boasted that the CBS evening news audience "has been growing dramatically the past several weeks we've been on." The ratings for Pelley's first five weeks as anchor showed a 7% increase from the same five weeks when Couric anchored in 2010. But whether the small increase indicates any significant change remains questionable as CBS continues to place third and its rivals also showed similar increases.
CBS News President David Rhodes also sought to downplay doubts about the network's resources. He said, "I don't see that we don't have what we need to do a really capable job every night." He addressed the closure of the network's foreign bureaus, insisting, "You don't need physical offices to put on a credible broadcast each night with the new technologies available to us today."