#AskNewser: News Presidents Reflect on 2023 and Look Forward to 2024 Election Coverage

By A.J. Katz 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: The year-end #AskNewser is back! (please clap.)

2023 was yet another roller coaster year in the television news business. Broadcast and cable news outlets are still trying to successfully navigate the rapid changes in how Americans consume the news—increasingly moving to streaming services, podcasting and digital-based outlets—to survive and thrive. Nielsen ratings among viewers under 55 continue to decline on an annual basis, and a volatile economy has in many cases hurt ad revenue and forced executives to make difficult decisions on the strategic and personnel fronts.

Other 2023 challenges include the top-rated cable news brand Fox News Media having to shell out $787.5 million to tech company Dominion to settle a defamation lawsuit this year. The company parted ways with its most popular personality, Tucker Carlson, shortly thereafter. Additionally, Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch stepped down from the day-to-day at his media conglomerate, handing the reins off to his son Lachlan Murdoch. Changing channels, CNN fired its CEO Chris Licht this summer after just 13 months on the job, a period which included several on and off-air controversies (including the firing of Don Lemon) and record-low Nielsen ratings. Former BBC and NY Times chief Mark Thompson took over the network for Licht in the fall. Then, there’s the proliferation of disinformation on the internet, a trend which makes producing trustworthy and accurate news all the more difficult, not to mention the general difficulties of covering a complicated war between Israel and the militant group Hamas, which started in October.


We caught up with executives in charge of a variety of U.S.-based TV news outlets—Fox News president and executive editor Jay Wallace, CBS News president Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, Bloomberg Television global head Julie Alnwick McHale, PBS NewsHour senior ep & WETA svp Sara Just, NewsNation president of news Michael Corn, and Scripps News president Kate O’Brian—to understand how they’re navigating this rapidly changing news landscape, what they learned this year and we can expect from their respective brands in 2024, a busy presidential election year.

TVNewser: What’s the most important thing you learned in 2023?

Alnwick McHale: We ushered in a lot of changes at Bloomberg Television this year, and the lesson that got reinforced time and time again was: Communicate as openly and transparently as possible. That means sharing our programming vision far and wide to all corners of the newsroom and setting clear expectations for people as we talk through their roles and contributions to BTV. Letting people into your circle and your thinking gives them more incentive to get on board with your ideas. I’m excited for some of those ideas to take shape in the first quarter, when we reboot our US morning with a fresh vision for Bloomberg Surveillance.

Ciprian-Matthews: Something important, which was not so much learned but reinforced in 2023, was the need to be on the ground for major stories. You can’t tell the story of the horror of the Israel-Hamas war from behind a desk. You can’t grasp the magnitude of a mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine and the strength of its survivors from hundreds of miles away. And you can’t fully portray the terror of the Maui fires without being on the ground, smelling the smoldering ruins, and asking tough questions of officials. Being there is something we all learn as cub journalists. Being there matters. It buttresses our reporting. It gives a heart to our storytelling, even in the toughest situations.

Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews

Corn: This year we learned that there is truly an audience for unbiased news. Our ratings have doubled while multiple independent watchdogs have rated us as one of the fairest of all broadcast and cable news outlets. Additionally, we are now called too far-right by many mainstream liberal outlets and too far-left by conservative media, so we are doing something right!

Just: This year I was reminded of the important lesson that one of the only constants in our business is change. We brought on new anchors for all three  of our broadcasts this year, Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett at PBS NewsHour, John Yang at PBS News Weekend and Jeffrey Goldberg at Washington Week with the Atlantic. Change is always daunting, but it is all going so well. Moving forward and continuing to work with such great journalists here in public media is a wonderful privilege.

O’Brian: More than ever, there is a massive need and desire for independent original journalism. We hear it every day from our viewers and users. Scripps News delivered compelling, context-driven news through our coverage of the biggest stories of the year — the stories that were among the most consequential of our time and begged the most informed electorate possible including: the war in Ukraine, the war between Israel and Hamas, the trials involving former President Trump, the state of abortion laws and the fast evolution of generative AI. We remain committed to earning the trust of our audience through our fact-based journalism, as we provide an independent point of view to our reporting. We also realized that audiences respond to great visual storytelling. Compelling subjects and remarkable visuals have been a hallmark of our reporting. Some of our most popular reports, and our award–winning programs, are also our most beautifully produced.

Wallace: After more than 30 years in the news, I would have presumed I’d seen the worst modern horrors humanity can visit upon itself. Oct. 7 [Hamas’ attack on Israel] proved me wrong.

Jay Wallace

What was your network’s biggest challenge in 2023, and how did you tackle it?

Alnwick McHale: There’s a lot of angst surrounding the future of TV, and that feeds into how resources are being deployed more broadly across media. We’re always thinking about both TV and video much more holistically. I’d say our biggest challenge is thinking of all the opportunities in this quickly evolving landscape. How are we tackling it? By (once again) communicating; by being open to new ideas while keeping the things that work; and by being nimble enough to pivot when the need presents itself.

Ciprian-Matthews: If we gave the 2023 news year a title, we’d probably have to call it Everything Everywhere All at Once. Reporting simultaneously on a multitude of global stories is a challenge that everyone in the news business had to tackle and I’m grateful that the CBS News teams in Ukraine  –  or Maui and Maine – had the experience to safely bring these stories home to audiences. Getting to the heart of a story, getting on location, and getting first-hand accounts from subjects and sources who can help decipher history as it is being made is not easy. It is a hard craft, but the experience of our teams in the US and throughout the world –  asking the tough questions and understanding the history and the context of these complex events –  makes the difference. It is a privilege to work with the extraordinary reporters at CBS News and among colleagues in the industry who care and dare to tell even the most difficult stories in service to the public every day.

Corn: The biggest challenge this year was securing and producing the last, and in our humble opinion, the best presidential debate of 2023. We tackled it by staying true to our mission by asking fair and smart questions focused on issues voters really care about.

Michael Corn

O’Brian: We rebranded and launched Scripps News on Jan. 1 – creating a coast-to-coast news division unlike any in the industry to better serve our national audiences and Scripps local stations. The challenge with the rebrand was making sure our audience knew where to find us. But with that challenge came an opportunity for us to leverage The E.W. Scripps Company’s name, which was built on a 145-year legacy of quality, objective journalism.

As the industry has faced criticism for its historic focus on a bicoastal approach to delivering national news, Scripps News capitalizes on Scripps’ nationwide expertise to bring viewers high-quality news and information from all over the country.

We believe in making all our coverage as accessible as possible, with a free 24-hour channel that’s ubiquitously accessible over-the-air, streaming and across our local media footprint.

Wallace: It’s always difficult when journalists end up covering a story in their own backyards, while simultaneously worrying about friends and family. We’re seeing that again in the Mideast. The Israelis who support our Jerusalem bureau are working around the clock to report the news for us, while also dealing with this tragedy on a deeply personal level.

What will make your election coverage stand out in 2024?

Alnwick McHale: Bloomberg’s strength is its fact-driven reporting and focus on data — and that’s where we’ll excel during the 2024 cycle. With ambitious and talented on-air contributors like Annmarie Hordern, Joe Mathieu and Kailey Leinz, our politics coverage will be must-watch for anyone who wants the very best news and analysis at the intersection of politics and business.

Julie Alnwick McHale

Ciprian-Matthews:  It starts and ends with our team. “Experienced. Dedicated. Nonpartisan. Deeply Knowledgeable.” This is how I describe our political journalists. Add to that the strength of our local news teams and you’ll see why we are so excited to deliver local to national to global coverage that stands apart. Our goal is to serve all of America. Utilizing our station and affiliate footprint we can do just that. You’ve heard this discussed, but 2024 is when you’ll see how a truly integrated CBS News and Station group delivers for every viewer and voter across the country. Stay tuned!

The story is not just about the horserace in Washington or on the campaign trail either. We consistently report on immigration, abortion, health care, the economy, climate, gun violence, etc. through the lens of real people who sit with CBS News reporters and share their stories. Elections are not about races; they are about people whose lives are impacted by legislation. We are going to do what we do best and keep our eye on the concerns of the people and voters throughout this nation.

We have invested in our Washington Bureau. In addition to our stellar political team you see on air including Norah O’Donnell, Margaret Brennan, Major Garrett, Robert Costa, Nancy Cordes, Weijia Jiang, Ed O’Keefe, Nikole Killian, Scott MacFarlane and many others on our Washington teams, we have committed more resources to investigative reporting and added investigative producers behind the scenes, including our most recent hire, Daniel Klaidman. We are also building out a unit CBS News Confirmed, specifically to examine misinformation, which will launch next year as a key component of our election coverage.

Corn: We believe the differentiator for NewsNation are the people behind the scenes and talent involved. We have recruited some of the brightest and most creative minds in journalism to power our coverage. Additionally, our partnership with our corporate cousins The Hill along with the best-in-class polling operation Decision Desk HQ will provide viewers with comprehensive and unbiased information to empower them to make the right decisions for their families in the voting booth next fall.

Just: Our focus this year is on reconsidering the usual choreography and bells and whistles of election coverage and drilling down on the reporting that will most illuminate the choices at stake this year.

Sara Just

O’Brian: Scripps News has reporters in more than 50 cities across the country, including key battleground states of Florida, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin and Virginia. Coupled with our deeply rooted reporting presence in Ohio, Montana and Georgia, Scripps News has a combined several hundred years of on-the-ground live-and-work reporting expertise in the nation’s most interesting states to watch in 2024. Through our deep integration with Scripps local stations, we deliver original reporting from journalists who have covered their statehouses for years. That expertise, alongside our national political team’s reporting, will provide audiences with insights on races at all levels. Our local news crews, because they are so deeply embedded in their communities, can offer a level of insight that audiences tell us they crave and can’t find elsewhere.

Wallace: We have an extraordinary and experienced team that’s already spent months laying groundwork for our election coverage. We got a nice head start by hosting the first two debates of the election cycle, and we’ll carry that momentum forward into 2024. We’ll also rely on our seasoned election reporters, producers, and anchors to bring viewers comprehensive coverage of the campaigns and election night.