CBS News anchors and the art of signing off

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The past two weeks have been bittersweet at CBS News as multiple anchors signed off — but in surprisingly graceful ways.

  • Even after former “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor was informed he was axed from the show, he opted to gracefully finish out the week behind the anchor desk.
  • His last broadcast was Friday, May 10, 2019.
  • And, when it came time to say goodbye, he was remarkably selfless, devoting the bulk of the time allotted to his farewell to running the show’s full credits and paying tribute to the staff behind the scenes.
  • On “CBS This Morning,” Thursday, May 16, Norah O’Donnell, Glor’s replacement, also signed off — though in a bit more of a traditional way.
  • O’Donnell will take over “Evening News” later this summer.
  • Her final broadcast included a tribute-style segment with big name well wishes.
  • That said, O’Donnell was graceful on air and thanked her co-anchors and team.
  • In addition, “CTM” opted to not belabor the point and limited her farewell mostly to the final block of the show.
  • The next day, John Dickerson, who CBS announced would leave the broadcast as well, signed off too.
  • Dickerson used a “Reporter’s Notebook” segment that looked back at his time at the show with an emphasis on the stories he covered.
  • He was also presented with a guitar signed by the show’s staff — and thanked viewers as well.

That said, CBS has also had its share of ungraceful on air exits in the past — including:

CBS execs are likely breathing a sigh of relief — at least for now — as the first part in a complex set of anchor moves has been set in motion.

  • Reports indicated that CBS News president Susan Zirinsky had hoped to keep the anchor changes under wraps until upfronts earlier this week.
  • However, multiple apparent leaks from inside the network lead to CBS confirming the “worst kept secrets in TV” Monday, May 6 instead.
  • In addition to Glor moving off “Evening” and the appointment of O’Donnell, the network announced Dickerson was being reassigned to “60 Minutes.”
  • CBS also announced Tony Dokoupil would join the “CBS This Morning” desk along with weekend anchor Anthony Mason.
  • So far, Glor is still under contract with CBS and has been offered another role within the network, but has yet to accept, according to Zirinsky and sources.

That said, there’s still a lot of pressure for CBS and its newly installed talent:

  • Both “CTM” and “Evening” remain mired in third place in their time slots.
  • “This Morning” was showing promising gains — at a time when most networks are losing viewers — but that reportedly stopped after Charlie Rose was axed.
  • While talent changes are often a key first move in improving ratings, it’s far from a guarantee that new faces will boost ratings.
  • In some cases, in fact, a new anchor will bring a brief spike in ratings as viewers tune in to see how things work.
  • While “Evening News” is often considered the network’s “signature” newscast, morning news can often be much more profitable.

TV news is no stranger to awkward departures from the anchor desk:

  • Perhaps most notably is Ann Curry’s tearful and awkward announcement she was leaving “Today.”
  • Curry was reportedly pushed out by then co-anchor Matt Lauer, who felt her on air chemistry with him was hurting the show.
  • Lauer would later be fired from NBC News for alleged sexual misconduct — resulting in Curry’s replacement, Savannah Guthrie, having to make the announcement alongside Hoda Kotb, who would eventually be named permanent co-anchor.
  • NBC’s Megyn Kelly also disappeared from the air after she made controversial comments about blackface during a Halloween costume segment.
  • Kelly appeared in a final new episode where she apologized for her remarks.
  • However, the damage was done and NBC ultimately ended up rolling into reruns of her show before dumping it altogether.
  • Kelly remained under contract for several months after NBC and her legal team reportedly battled over the remainder of her multimillion dollar deal and a confidentiality agreement.
  • She and NBC would ultimately agree on the terms of her departure, which reportedly included paying out the full value of her contract and no non-compete clause, but she did sign a confidentiality agreement, according to sources.

Many local TV station anchors also fall victim to the “disappearing act.”

  • It’s not uncommon for station management to inform talent that their employment is terminated in private meetings, often held right after they go off the air for the day.
  • In these situations, anchors never have a chance to say goodbye on air, though social media has allowed anchors to thank viewers off air.
  • It’s also not uncommon for anchors to leave for a vacation or time off and never return to the air.
  • More heated firings often involve the use of building security to escort anchors or reports from the station.
  • Anchors have even been locked out the building or had their email accounts deactivated without warning, only to be told later that they no longer have a job.
  • Other anchors may also be told well in advance that their contracts will not be renewed, but remain quiet about it until the time draws closer either by choice or mutual agreement with the station.
  • In some cases, the anchor and station may agree to have the anchor sign off on air at the expiration of their contract.
  • However, it’s not uncommon for anchors to announce after what turned out to be their last newscast that they will not be returning.