Josh Elliott on the Olympics: ‘Making That Decision Was Very Difficult’

By Chris Ariens 

When Josh Elliott left ABC News for NBC Sports in 2014 a lifelong career goal was about to be achieved: he would be broadcasting from an Olympics. These Olympics, happening now in Rio.

“A profound and essential part of my being has always been to be a part of an Olympics broadcast,” Elliott said when he joined NBC in April, 2014.

But just 20 months later, Elliott and NBC parted ways. Last March, Elliott returned to news, signing on with CBS News as lead anchor for CBSN. His first big assignment, anchoring coverage from the RNC and DNC.

The digital channel topped its own viewer records during coverage from Cleveland and Philadelphia, seeing 13.85 million streams during both weeks with viewers watching for 52 minutes-per-session, on average. But it’s still not talking beach volleyball from Copacabana Beach.

We caught up with Elliott, 45, during the RNC where we talked about his dashed Olympic dream, his delayed honeymoon, and what life is like at CBS:

TVNewser: Coming from sports did you have to do a lot of homework before this or are you a political junkie?

Elliott: When I left ESPN to go to Good Morning America I realized that was the time when I had to, not so much do homework, as just shift a gear, but it was the same car. I feel like I hadn’t been in fourth professionally. But I’m a news junkie. I am happy to have grown up at a time where you can be plugged in and aware of the world all day long. When I came to CBS and CBSN I’d been consuming it daily. And so, instead of doing homework it was actually much more of, like all journalists, you want to be in it. We run to the fire. We run to this sort of thing. And so it was a tremendous opportunity to be able to participate in something like that.

TVNewser: But coming here and doing this meant that when you left NBC Sports you were giving up something you really wanted to also do at some point, and that was cover an Olympics.

JoshElliottCBSsmElliott: Yeah.

TVNewser: And that’s coming up in two weeks.

Elliott: Yeah.

TVNewser: Talk about how you’re feeling about not going to Rio?

Elliott: Personally it was certainly something that – it was a career list. It was a box to check. And as excited as I was to have that opportunity you can’t take everything with you. And so it was certainly a thing to let go of. And making that decision was very difficult. I’ve had to make a few decisions professionally that have forced me to let go of things that were incredibly close to my heart. And I will have a lot of friends and former colleagues at NBC News and Sports who are decamping to Rio. But it won’t mean that I won’t watch. But that’s something I learned even at ABC News. I watched the World Cup a couple of years ago and watched the Euro 2016 that was also broadcast on ABC and ESPN: things I had always hoped to be a part of at one time. If there was a network that provided all of these all at once…

TVNewser: Well, CBS does obviously have those resources too. It’s got the NFL. It’s got other professional sports. It’s got a sports network. What are your ambitions with CBS News or with CBS Sports?

Elliott: I am certainly not evading that question when I say to you that it is not any decision I ever get to make. I am always happy to dash off emails to folks and say ‘Hey, this is happening in the Premiere League’ or ‘Did you see this?’ I’m always willing to lend wherever I can. It’s a part of my DNA. If they ever ask and I can find time I will always do it. I recently returned from a long-delayed honeymoon [to Greece] and I made the promise to check in every day just to see what was happening. And then there was a six, seven-day news cycle [beginning with two police-involved shootings in the U.S., continuing with the Bastille Day attack in Nice, and culminating with the attempted coup in Turkey].

TVNewser: And your wife [ABC7 anchor Liz Cho] works in the business so she’s obviously as plugged in as you. Did you enjoy this honeymoon if you were constantly checking emails and alerts?

Elliott: You know what? I did my level best which is to say I tried to be there when we were there but I would be lying to you if I said that breakfast was not enjoyed over discussions of ‘I can’t believe that happened yesterday.’ We’re never quite ever off the clock – ever.

Josh Elliott and Liz Cho along with John Dickerson at the 2016 White House Correspondents Dinner.

Josh Elliott and Liz Cho along with John Dickerson at the 2016 White House Correspondents Dinner.

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