Dan Rather announces just before Thanksgiving that he will relinquish the CBS anchor chair in March, on the anniversary of the day he assumed that position from Walter Cronkite 24 years ago. Over at NBC, Tom Brokaw will step aside in a couple of weeks, although his retirement date was decided a while back.
There is an earthquake rumbling through broadcast network news, with only Peter Jennings at ABC remaining in a Big Three anchor chair. It has been more than 20 years since even one of these positions has been open, and now in a space of only a few months we are about to see changes in two of them. In the world of broadcast TV news, it just doesn’t get much bigger than this.
Network anchor jobs are a rare thing on the Help Wanted page. Dan Rather took over at CBS in 1981, and Brokaw and Jennings assumed their positions in 1983.
Who is going to take Rather’s place? No one knows for sure, although a couple of not-so-well-known reporters’ names are floating around. Brokaw’s replacement has been known, it seems, for years, with Brian Williams expected and expecting to assume the anchor position.
But how big is this, really?
The truth is that it just doesn’t matter who gets these jobs.
In fact, I suggest that the two worst places to send your resume are for the NBC and CBS anchor positions. Think about it: How would you like to be the guy people remember when the Big Networks lose the rest of their shimmer and shine?As the Big Three become less important, less influential, less relevant, it matters less and less who sits in the anchor chair. And in fact if you happen to be those poor slobs when the drain opens and the ratings go completely down, your career is over.