CBS launching turn-of-decade project

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2009 12:44 PM

CBS News is planning an ambitious turn-of-decade look at America's position in the world that's also designed as an opening competitive shot at Diane Sawyer.

Called "CBS Reports: Where America Stands," the series will look at issues such as health care, the military, the economy and crime. Reporters will show what was happening 10 years ago and compare it to now, with predictions about how things will be like at the start of the 2020s.

The "CBS Evening News" will be the centerpiece for the reports. But "The Early Show," "Face the Nation" and the network's radio and online outlets will also participate, said Sean McManus, CBS News president.

"People really do want to know how safe we are and could we fight another war if we had to," McManus said. "How strong is our military? Is it stronger than it was 10 years ago? Is it weaker? And how prepared are we for the challenges of the next decade."

The series could run for a couple of months and get a real showcase on Katie Couric's newscast, he said.

It's no coincidence that the reports are designed to begin right around the time Sawyer takes over for Charles Gibson as anchor of ABC's "World News." McManus wants strong CBS newscasts airing at a time people who miss Gibson might want to look around. CBS is third in the evening news ratings, with ABC second and NBC the leader.

"I believe there will be more sampling during the first couple of weeks of January," he said, "because, anytime there's a major shift in one of the newscasts, I think it does motivate people to see what all of the networks are doing."

McManus said he was also heartened by the response to CBS' "Children of the Recession" project, a major look at the impact of the financial crisis that ran across several of the network platforms. CBS also recently took considerable time on the evening news to examine the war in Afghanistan.

The CBS News chief said he believes these projects are energizing for his news division and help make its work distinctive when there's much competition for attention between broadcast and cable news outlets.