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CBS News Chief: ‘I Want To Be Proud’ of ‘The Early Show’

CBS News brought Scott Pelley to its session at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills Wednesday, giving the audience of TV critics a chance to pepper the new Evening News anchor/managing editor with questions on helming the newscast.

But after the panel, talk turned to another daypart with CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, namely the morning and particularly CBS’ struggles in the early hours.

“It’s a big challenge for us,” Fager told a small group of reporters after the CBS News TCA panel. “We had to deal with the Evening News first. Chris Licht, who has come to us in the past two months, is an amazing, talented guy who was a big part of creating Morning Joe. We’re now focused on that and we are turning our attention to The Early Show.”

When asked, Fager said that the recent anchor shuffle at NBC’s dominant Today show might have opened up an opportunity in the morning.

“They do what they do very well, I think we can do something else very well too,” Fager said of his plans for the morning. “It’s too early to talk specifics, but I can tell you right now I want to be proud of it.”

Fager has made it clear from the time he assumed control of the news division in February that he is seeking to make all of its news programs more like 60 Minutes, the newsmagazine on which he serves as executive producer. So it’s fair to assume that any changes made to The Early Show would reflect that same spirit of hard news.

“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen because we’re just beginning that process, but you can be sure it will be in keeping with everything we talk about here,” he said.

As to whether viewers are looking for hard news in the morning, Fager said the term gets misunderstood – he interprets it as subjects that are both interesting and important. And he believes there is an audience for that type of news at any time of day.

“There’s a hunger for real broadcast journalism and I think it exists in the morning too.”