Frank Rich Ponders Why Anyone Cares About Network Anchors

By Mark Joyella 

Frank Rich isn’t losing any sleep over the future of “NBC Nightly News.” Writing in New York, Rich describes the suspension of anchor Brian Williams–and the subsequent turmoil at NBC News–as a “train wreck played out as corporate and celebrity farce rather than as a human or cultural tragedy because it doesn’t actually matter who puts on the bespoke suit and reads the news from behind a desk.”

Rich details the history of the anchor-as-institution in America, and how much has changed since the retirement of Walter Cronkite. Rich points to ABC’s David Muir, writing that “both his elevation and the Twitter-feed-paced broadcast he is anchoring are ABC’s open acknowledgments, if any were needed, that the anchorman as we’ve known him since the Cronkite era is done.”

Rich also notes that anchors like CBS’ Scott Pelley, who continues as a correspondent for “60 Minutes,” don’t see the network anchor gig as the pinnacle of their careers:


Not for nothing did the most substantive heir apparent to Sawyer at ABC, George Stephanopoulos, dodge the anchoring slot at World News Tonight so he could retain his jobs as moderator of the Sunday-morning This Week and Good Morning America, which is a more powerful perch than the evening news as measured by profits, airtime, and audience demographic. And not for nothing were the title and authority of “chief anchor” at ABC bestowed on Stephanopoulos: He, not Muir, will be center stage for those anchor moments when breaking news actually breaks out and network news swings into 24/7 crisis mode.