CBS News stayed within its ranks on Wednesday to name correspondent Jeff Glor as anchor of the "CBS Evening News," the flagship broadcast that was led by Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather in the past but is now a distant third in the television ratings.
Glor replaces Scott Pelley, who was forced out awkwardly this spring after six years. Anthony Mason has been filling in since Pelley returned to "60 Minutes" full-time.
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Glor was a part of CBS' hurricane coverage in recent months and was stationed in Jackson, Wyoming, for CBS' coverage of the total solar eclipse. He has worked on several broadcasts in his decade at CBS, including weekend editions of the evening news, and was part of CBS' startup of its streaming service.
"Jeff shines in every format and show," said CBS News President David Rhodes. "He has a great deal of versatility. He's very flexible. Jeff recommended himself to us through his work, both in the field and in the studio."
Evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC have diminished in influence since the days that Rather, Tom Brokaw of NBC and Peter Jennings of ABC were the unquestioned leaders of broadcast news. Cable news stars like Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity soak up a lot of attention in a politically polarized world. But collectively, the evening newscasts still draw more than 20 million viewers each weeknight. Even individually, each newscast has a larger audience than anything on cable news.
ABC's "World News Tonight" has ascended to the top of the ratings after the telegenic David Muir replaced Diane Sawyer, even though ABC uses George Stephanopoulos as its top anchor for political news and most special reports.
"The days of thinking you can boost your audience at 6:30 in the evening with big-name players are over," said news consultant Andrew Tyndall. CBS tried that approach a decade ago by bringing on Katie Couric but couldn't climb out of the ratings cellar. It makes sense for a network to search for a less expensive alternative who can grow into the job, Tyndall said.
With the 42-year-old Glor taking over sometime before the end of the year, CBS will have a youthful anchor to match ABC's Muir, who is 43. It won't be the first time the two men have competed: both worked during the late 1990s on local news stations in Syracuse, New York, where Muir grew up and Glor attended college. Lester Holt anchors NBC's "Nightly News."
"It doesn't hurt the broadcast's prospects that Jeff is of his generation," Rhodes said. "I think Jeff naturally communicates a digital future for the broadcast."
Glor will likely play a part in a more robust "CBS Evening News" web presence and continue to be a part of the streaming service, Rhodes said.
The "CBS Evening News" generally gets about 2 million fewer viewers than the ABC newscast each night. Pelley earned strong reviews for his newscast but didn't gain in the ratings, which led to losing his job in May — a decision that became public when news was leaked that his office at the evening news was being cleaned out.
Mason, who is 61, will return to his job as a reporter and anchor of CBS' Saturday morning newscast. He'll continue on the evening news for several more weeks as Glor's broadcast is prepared; CBS hasn't set a date for the switch, but said it will be before the year is out. Steve Capus, a former NBC News president, will continue as the broadcast's executive producer.
Glor worked in local news in Syracuse and Boston before joining CBS News. He has anchored weekend editions of the evening news in recent years and also was an anchor for CBS' streaming service. As a reporter, he's covered the shootings at Sandy Hook, the Superstorm Sandy in the New York area and the Boston Marathon shooting.
The network has promoted from within for its most recent big jobs, when Jane Pauley replaced Charles Osgood on the popular Sunday morning newscast and John Dickerson took over from Bob Schieffer as "Face the Nation" moderator.
CBS has been No. 3 in the evening news ratings for much of the past two decades, but Rhodes isn't waving any white flags.
"We don't accept it," he said. "This and every move we make is about making the broadcast as competitive as it can be and I think Jeff is going to be very competitive."