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CBS appoints head of sports as news chief

October 26, 2005

By Kenneth Li

NEW YORK (Reuters) – CBS News on Wednesday named Sean
McManus, head of CBS Sports, as its news chief, replacing
Andrew Heyward, whose decade-long tenure was marred by
controversy over a discredited report on U.S. President George
W. Bush.

McManus, who has served as CBS Sports president since 1996
and will retain the title, will replace Heyward on November 7.
Heyward, who resigned, will stay on until the end of the year.

Although McManus lacks the hard-news pedigree of the man he
replaces, the decision is poignant at a time when the network
news business is seeking to lure back younger viewers who
increasingly turn to the Internet as a source of information.

The average age of CBS News’s viewers is 60, top executives
have said. Marketers favor the big-spending 18-to-34 year-old
demographic.

Leslie Moonves, co-president of CBS-owner Viacom, said he
has sent his team “back to the drawing board” to lure new
viewers.

Part of the strategy unfolded in July when CBS News said it
planned to create a 24-hour online news service and let viewers
construct their own news programming lineup from a selection of
high-speed Internet video clips. At the time, Heyward called
the Internet audience “the most desirable audience there is.”

McManus, according to a CBS statement, was instrumental in
landing a joint venture with SportsLine USA to create CBS
SportsLine, among the most popular sports sites on the
Internet.

‘VOICE OF GOD’ ERA OVER?

Reports of fabricated reports at major U.S. newspapers and
CBS’s botched Bush report have also eroded the public’s trust
in mainstream media, according to recent studies.

CBS News retracted the September 8, 2004, report that Bush
had been given special treatment while serving in the Texas Air
National Guard during the Vietnam War.

An independent panel investigating CBS’s handling of the
story fell short of saying the news organization was duped. But
the panel found the team, under legendary news anchor Dan
Rather’s charge, was blinded by a “myopic zeal” that led them
to disregard the basic tenets of journalism.

The reversal pockmarked iconic CBS newsman Dan Rather’s
55-year-career as a respected journalist. Rather’s last
broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News in March was just
the latest reminder that the all-knowing “voice of god” era of
news anchors was over, observers said at the time.

Meanwhile CBS News had considered replacing Rather with a
team of anchors, a move competitor ABC News has already adopted
with “Nightline.”

One media expert called recent reports over any immediate
seismic shifts in the way news is presented on network
television, which garners some 30 million viewers nightly,
overblown.

“When all the smoke is cleared, the way the evening news is
done after (NBC’s Tom) Brokaw, Rather and (ABC News’s Peter)
Jennings will look very similar to how it looked before — a
single anchor reading the news, passing it to reporters who
will do little pieces,” said Robert Thompson, a media studies
professor at Syracuse University, who compared it to cable
news’s combined viewership of about 6 million.

Topping McManus’ agenda will be to lift CBS News’ trailing
ratings among the three national broadcast news networks,
Thompson said.

CBS is a unit of media conglomerate Viacom Inc., which is
due to split apart by the end of this year.

Reuters/VNU




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