Jul 14, 2020
By Kelby Clark
“People have rediscovered us in a way, and I think they will continue to watch.”
Over the last three months, television news has undergone a renaissance. Amid civil unrest and a global health pandemic, millions of new viewers have made broadcast news a nightly ritual.
Beginning in mid-March, there was a ratings surge for the CBS Evening News and the other U.S.-based nightly broadcasts, which includes ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC’s Nightly News. In the six weeks following March 16, viewership across the three programs increased 39% year-over-year. It’s the first time in more than a decade that the shows drew such consistently large viewership.
“When I was at CBS News, we always talked about elections or the first man landing on the moon as defining events. This is another defining event,” explains Adam Clayton Powell III, Director of Washington Programs at USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy and a veteran of CBS News. “People have discovered that at 6:30 p.m., they can turn to a trusted source...and as a result have discovered [CBS’] Norah O'Donnell."
"People have discovered that at 6:30 p.m., they can turn to a trusted source…and as a result have discovered [CBS’] Norah O’Donnell."
Adam Clayton Powell III
Director of Washington Programs at USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy
"I'm hopeful that new storytelling forms will come out of this time. I think there's a lot of creativity going on."
Dean of Hofstra University's Lawrence Herbert School of Communication
“The thing about this story is that it's so multi-faceted,” says Shaylor. “It affects so many different aspects of American life, from the way you buy your groceries, to the restaurant down the street, to when taxes are due, to when you will go back to work and how will you go back to work. It’s a story that is going to dominate American life for more than the foreseeable future.”
In addition, the CBS Evening News gives viewers the ability to text O’Donnell about what stories they’re interested in and what information they feel they need. The feedback has resulted in full segments on the broadcast. For example, after multiple people asked about why their relief checks hadn’t arrived, the team investigated, and a piece explaining the hold-up aired on April 27.
“We have been able to innovate the evening news format,” says Shaylor. “Norah's strength as an interviewer — as someone who is willing to ask tough and fair questions — has really helped us cut through the noise and get people the answers they need. We have done far more interviews with key players than traditional newscasts have ever done. We continue to focus on those areas where we're seeing changes that affect how people live their lives and move forward.”
"The pandemic has changed the way everyone works. We’re no exception."
Executive Producer of "CBS Evening News"