Election role of morning anchors shows change in television

November 1, 2018
This combination photo shows "Today" show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, left, at NBC Studios in New York on June 27, 2018 and "Good Morning America" co-anchor George Stephanopoulos at the 2016 Joyful Revolution Gala in New York on May 10, 2016. ABC, CBS and NBC are giving big roles for their morning show teams on live election night coverage. The entire four-person team on "CBS This Morning" will be in the anchor chairs for that network's midterm results show, while ABC's Stephanopoulos and NBC's Guthrie will have lead roles at their networks. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK (AP) — John Dickerson’s election survival strategy involves a shower, some fresh air and maybe — if he’s lucky — a short nap.

The “CBS This Morning” host, along with his three co-hosts, will play a central role in the network’s election night coverage on Tuesday. The broadcast will likely creep into the wee hours, yet each will be expected in the studio for the start of the 7 a.m. morning show.

Morning hosts will help anchor election night on CBS, ABC and NBC. That’s an illustration of how the economics of the television business have changed over the years to where the morning shows are the economic drivers of broadcast news divisions.

Think back to the early 2000s and evening news hosts Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather were the unquestioned leaders for their networks on a key news night.

George Stephanopoulos leads the way Tuesday at ABC News, with “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir in a support role. “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor will be outnumbered by the morning team of Dickerson, Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell and Bianna Golodryga. NBC “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt will co-anchor with “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie and Washington bureau chief Chuck Todd.

Not only are morning shows more important to the networks financially, the anchors there have more day-to-day live experience and need to do a greater variety of interviews than their evening counterparts, said news consultant Andrew Tyndall.

“It’s a change, but it’s a logical change,” Tyndall said.

Brokaw and Rather came to their jobs with experience as White House correspondents at their networks, which isn’t the case for the evening news anchors today. Stephanopoulos has the most White House experience, but he was working in the Clinton administration, not in the press room, in the early 1990s.

Brokaw next week plans to keep alive his streak of working for NBC News on every presidential or midterm election night since 1966, a streak he started while covering the election of Ronald Reagan as California governor. He’ll be in an elder statesman commentator’s role on Tuesday.

Guthrie won’t be alone working her morning show with little or no shut-eye Wednesday morning. “No one gets to sleep anyway,” said Rashida Jones, head of planning for NBC’s elections coverage.

Dickerson has some experience with the short turnaround since his days as “Face the Nation” host often required him to deliver analysis on both election nights and the morning after.

Adrenaline kicks in, as well as the mild panic of wondering if you’ll have enough time to figure out what the election results mean for the nation going forward, he said. He has to figure out when he’ll have the time to do that.

“That keeps you going, as well as the ready supply of coffee,” he said.

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