As a former Senior Executive Producer of a past CBS News morning show incarnation, I write this headline with a more generous heart than may appear; I always root for news shows to thrive and hope headlines like this just might help trigger a surge of competitive juice that pumps ferociously to prove the observer wrong.
While television critics have been kind about the launch of CBS This Morning — at least respectful of anchors Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill — the morning show’s new Facebook Fan Page is overwhelmed by vitriol from viewers, real viewers who put their name and photos to their comments, some with whom I actually agree.
- Debbie Gillispie Van Fleet … Been watching for almost an hour now and have seen NO news. Guess its back to CNN.Gail L Uecker I wish CBS would stop changing things every year. I was a daily watcher of the morning show but dislike this new CBS This Morning.11 hours ago · Like · 6Marcy Wilson I so agree with Gail~ Now searching for a better show.11 hours ago · Like · 2Cheryl Klund I have watched the Early Show since before 911…There is too much on the set and the whole thing seems like chaos. I guess it is time to look for a new morning show.11 hours ago · Like · 2Jude Barrett As silly as this may sound, CBS TM needs younger, fresher talent.11 hours ago · LikeRoxy Steward Getchell you might want to make the fonts a little bigger for Rose, he looked like he was straining hard to see! I couldn’t get off that show fast enough…moved over to GMA!!10 hours ago · Like · 1Kathy Askim Really disappointing. Poor Erica.10 hours ago · Like · 1Kimberly Eftink- Romano @Dan – yeah, Gilligan’s Island now called CBS This Morning!9 hours ago · Like · 1Cammy Cloninger The last thing I want to see is Gayle King interviewing Michelle Obama! I thought I would give this show one more shot today….but that’s it! Wow have you messed up big time CBS! This show is laughable. Hello NBC!!3 hours ago · Like
Wednesday morning CBS This Morning will showcase a Gayle King interview with First Lady Michelle Obama, surely a litmus test for a news anchor during a week of a historic dual sweep for a Republican in Iowa and New Hampshire, a state where republicans say their top priority is selecting a candidate who can beat the president.
For some reason, producers agreed to a Tuesday pre-tape which would finish way before the polls closed, thwarting any possibility to ask, for instance, what the First Lady thought of Romney’s victory speech in which he said Obama had first “run out of ideas, now he’s run out of excuses.”
Instead the interview will likely focus on the new salacious book about the Obama’s by a New York Time’s reporter given unusual access to insiders.
This will be an important interview for this new show which has yet to find its footing.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE EARLY PROMISE?
A few months ago, I had higher hopes for CBS in the morning. After 50+ years in third place in the morning, CBS News execs roared from W. 57th St. how they were committing to strong news content. No goofy weathermen (sorry Al, I don’t think you’re goofy.) No cooking segments. No entourages to cover The Royals. CBS This Morning shall be about “hard” news.
Sadly, and not because they went live to London on Monday to discuss Kate Middleton’s thirtieth birthday, they have not lived up to their most basic public mission statements.
Despite six months of preparation for Monday morning’s debut CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill, fresh news content was nowhere to be found.
With all the contact with the White House in arranging the Michelle Obama interview, how great would it have been to have an early heads up that the President would soon announce the resignation of his embattled White House chief of staff, Bill Daley. That would have been an exciting morning scoop.
Instead, the lead was a pre-taped soft interview with Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich conducted by Charlie Rose . After a flattering welcome to the broadcast by the former House Speaker, Rose threw out his first softball of the day: “A $3.4 million (media) buy… what do you hope it accomplishes for you?”
Open mic, invite the stump speech. Gingrich says his media buy will help him set the record straight about front-runner Romney who he says “ran (for the U.S. Senate seat from Mass.) to the left of Teddy Kennedy in ’94.”
Around breakfast tables across the country, I imagined spit takes, even by staunch conservatives in the middle of drinking their morning coffee. Surprisingly, Rose had no reaction, not even a wry “on his first visit to our new show, we’ll have to ask Mr. Romney if he would characterize his politics as such.”
I wondered: Why waste $3.4 million when you can make outrageous unchallenged statements for free on CBS? Instead, Rose asked: “Are you hoping to gain momentum to tear down Romney?” (Isn’t that what all candidates hope to do to the frontrunner?)
Gingrich said he was trying to run a “Charlie Rose-style” campaign, whatever that means. Fortunately, Rose didn’t ask, which would most likely have opened the door to more fawning over the morning anchor’s debut.
At the same time, over on Today, Matt Lauer began his own interview with Gingrich– lively and live — with challenging questions, news-making content. Lauer doesn’t ask about the media buy, but rather drills Gingrich about a 30-minute attack film made by a political action committee on his behalf . The film focuses on Mitt Romney’s tenure as CEO of Bain Capital and reportedly portrays him as “‘greedy, ruthless corporate raider who has slashed jobs for profit.”
Lauer: As I said, it’s being paid for by a super PAC, and by law, you can’t have any direct contact with that super PAC. Are you completely in favor of the running of that film, and do you agree with everything it says?
GINGRICH: I have no idea. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I will at some point-
LAUER: But you’ve read about it-
GINGRICH: I’ve read about it, but what I’ve read about it said that it’s based upon historical facts. I think, at some point, Governor Romney is going to have to hold a press conference and walk through, with considerable detail, some of the companies that Bain took over, where they apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed, and walked off with millions of dollars. Look, I’m for capitalism. I’m for people who go in to save a company. I’m for people who take real risk. I’m for people who grow jobs, and I understand sometimes you fail. I mean, I’ve run four small businesses in the last decade. It gets tough out there. It doesn’t always work- I get that. But if somebody comes in, takes all the money out of your company, and then, leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that’s not traditional capitalism, and I think Governor Romney’s-
LAUER: But considering the fact that Governor Romney- considering the fact that Governor Romney may eventually be the nominee of the party, can’t you already hear the ads from President Obama’s team saying this is a guy whose own party members called him a corporate raider, a predator, and ruthless?
Back in the CBS interview, Rose asks, “How will you do in New Hampshire… ahead of Santorum?” Who cares?
And finally, Rose ended the interview by giving Gingrich condolences on the death of his conservative friend, columnist Tony Blankley. Maybe next week he will save those private exchanges for a chat over the headset after the interview and use the network time to dig down with a relevant question.
THE “BIG” INTERVIEW
Despite the show’s other stated goal to be “different,” the premiere PBS interviewer sat down at the new roundtable with Julianna Margulies as part of the routine shilling all morning show anchors are now expected to provide for their networks. Then, with his co-anchors looking on, he welcomed her with “It’s great to have you back on the show.” Whoops. This was the debut broadcast.
Hill threw out the first big question: “How crazy it must be on the set of (CBS’) The Good Wife, since the actress doesn’t find out what happens to her character in advance?”
Whoops. That’s not correct, Margulies said. “No, no… they give me time to prepare.”
“Do you like politics? Rose asked of the actress who portrays the wife of a scandalized politician? She tells us she finds it fascinating to watch, although her father-in-law has told her it’s a tough world, too tough to tempt her to ever be involved.
A brilliant journalist once said, or rather often said , “Tell me a story. Tell me something new.” His name was Don Hewitt who was at the helm of 60 Minutes for nearly four decades. I think he would be have been sad this week.
THE NEW HEALTH WATCH IS DANGEROUSLY ANEMIC
Nowhere in the two-hour broadcast was the most important consumer story of the day: the massive recall of Excedrin, NoDoz, Bufferin and Gas-X products, along with nine prescription opiate painkillers and morphine. The FDA said there was a risk of opiates co-mingling with the over-the-counter medications made at the same Lincoln, Nebraska plant.
This story doesn’t even qualify for a Health Watch? (One might even make the argument the recall of such widely used popular medications should make it into the first twenty minutes of a morning news show.
Wouldn’t you like to be at least referred to a website for a chart that includes the list of recalled products which included the Excedrin products with expiration dates of Dec. 20, 2014:
- Excedrin Extra Strength Caplets
- Excedrin Extra Strength Express Gel Caplets
- Excedrin Extra Strength Gel Caplets
- Excedrin Extra Strength Tablets
- Excedrin Back & Body Caplets
- Excedrin Sinus Headache Caplets
- Excedrin Migraine Caplets
- Excedrin Migraine Gel Tablets
- Excedrin Migraine Tablets
- Excedrin Menstrual Complete Express Gel Caplets
- Excedrin PM Caplets
- Excedrin PM Express Gel Caplets
- Excedrin PM Tablets
- Excedrin Tension Headache Caplets
- Excedrin Tension Headache Express Gel Caplets
- Excedrin Tension Headache Gel Tablets
Instead Dr. Holly Phillips brought us a non-story titled: Where’s the flu? In it we learn that flu reporting is low this year due because 1/3 of Americans got vaccinated. Still, Dr. Phillips gave us a list of prevention tips in her 1:18 report, telling us to wash our hands frequently, get enough sleep and maintain a positive outlook.
At the top of the 8:00 hour, CBS’ promise to put the news back in our mornings was represented by a roundtable discussion between anchor Gayle King, Erica Hill and Melissa Etheridge who discussed the birth of Beyonce’s baby girl, if ageism exists in Hollywood and why Adele’s voice “makes you want to cry.”
Responding to gossip reports of Jay-Z paying over a million dollars to secure the hospital floor, Etheridge admitted she had to take security precautions as a celebrity, but “we didn’t have to buy out the floor.”
And the reports that a new father was kept from seeing his own baby as a result? Erica Hill suggested Beyoncé and Jay-Z surely didn’t want to keep parents away and Etheridge assured viewers that hospitals have protocols they follow for celebrities.
The discussion of ageism in Hollywood was sparked by an actress’ lawsuit against a website for revealing her age. While ageism is a real and brutal reality for many women, in and out of Hollywood, Etheridge told us she chooses not to blame anyone or anything for failure to succeed. Case closed.
Now on to the breaking news that Adele’s voice makes you want to cry — perhaps more in the field of expertise for Melissa Etheridge. She tells us we are moved by the simplicity of Adele’s voice accompanied as it is accompanied by a single instrument, the piano. “I love that people embrace the human voice.” Even her teenage daughters love it, she told us.
There’s more, of course, but none of it fits the slightest notion of “putting news back in the morning.” It was more like The View, but without the benefit of Barbara Walters’ pulse or that show’s two stand up comediennes, including one with an Oscar.
A secondary marketing campaign is that CBS This Morning is “Working Hard to Build You a Better Morning.” Despite that I truly like and admire Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill — even Dr. Holly Phillips — independent of this show, I think someone behind the scenes is going to have to try quite a bit harder.