You could fill a graveyard with the bodies that CBS has posed in front of its morning show cameras over the decades in its ratings pursuit of NBC’s Today show and ABC’s Good Morning America. The latest dead-anchors walking, appointed yesterday by CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, are Charlie Rose and Gayle King.
Wikipedia stacks the names of former CBS morning show hosts like cordwood. In the 1950s, Walter Cronkite, Jack Paar, John Henry Faulk, Dick Van Dyke, and Will Rogers Jr. helped chair the show. When Cronkite was anchor, a segment was devoted to a lion puppet named Charlemagne discussing the news with him, as this picture proves. Cronkite remembers his cotton colleague warmly, writing in his biography, A Reporter‘s Life, “A puppet can render opinions on people and things that a human commentator would not feel free to utter. It was one of the highlights of our show, and I was, and am, proud of it.”
In the 1960s, hosts Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner were fed to the morning band-saw, and in the 1970s, John Hart, Hughes Rudd, Bernard Kalb, Bruce Morton, Faith Daniels, Lesley Stahl, Richard Threlkeld, and Washington Post Style section sensation Sally Quinn were similarly sacrificed. (Nora Ephron interviewed at the same time as Quinn for a co-anchor slot and luckily lost.)
CBS cleared its bench in the 1980s and 1990s to feed the morning shift: Bob Schieffer, Charles Kuralt, Diane Sawyer, Bill Kurtis, Jane Wallace, Meredith Vieira, Phyllis George, Maria Shriver, Forrest Sawyer, Mariette Hartley, Rolland Smith, Bob Saget, Harry Smith, and Kathleen Sullivan.
“We’ve been changing people like shirts,” the VP of a CBS affiliate told the Los Angeles Times in 1986.