New EP Rome Hartman: “We Have A Great Tradition To Uphold & Rebuild”

By Brian 

When Rome Hartman started his career at CBS News 23 years ago, he aspired to be “on” the Evening News.

As a field producer in Atlanta, he prepared reports for the network’s platforms, “and the only one I wanted my stories to appear on was the CBS Evening News.”

“It’s a broadcast I care deeply about and I love, and I’m just excited to be a part of it again.”

As the newly named executive producer of the broadcast, Hartman’s tenure at the network is coming full circle. After a few years in Atlanta, Hartman became the White House producer for the Evening News, then the newscast’s senior producer in Washington.

Then Hartman partnered with Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes. When Sean McManus became president, the opportunity to return to the Evening News gradually presented itself.

“When he was appointed…I put my hand up and said ‘Sean, I’d like to be a part of the future of CBS News in any way that you think I can contribute.'”

After several weeks of conversations, the decision was made. Hartman doesn’t have a grand plan to revamp the evening news yet. “It’s too early to say what the broadcast is going to look like,” Hartman said. “If I was telling you that now, I’d be making it up.”

But in a conversation with TVNewser this afternoon, he did offer a few hints about his two Evening News tasks…

What’s your number one goal?

I hope to, first of all, step into a job that has been done very well by my predecessor and his predecessors. This is a job that a lot of terrific people have had, most recently Jim Murphy. So, to step in and do from day one a great broadcast.

My other task is to help Sean McManus and the rest of the news division figure out what the next incarnation of the evening news will be — what the people are going to look like, how the broadcast is going to be put together, who’s going to anchor.

Well then, what is the next incarnation of the evening news?

I’ve had this job for two hours. No, three! Sean and I have had some very good discussions about his desire to have the evening news win, and be again the most-watched evening newscast in the country, and to be what it has been historically. We have a great tradition to uphold and rebuild.

We haven’t had specific conversations about what it’s going to look like or who’s going to anchor it. It’s early to say about that.

What should the new Evening News look like? A newscast of record, or more feature-y, or something similar to 60 Minutes, or…?

There’s no way for a 30 minute network evening newscast to be a broadcast of record, because the world is too big and complicated and too much happens. That’s always been true. It’s more true now than it’s ever been…

We can’t aspire to be a broadcast of record. We have to aspire to be a smart, true digest of the day. And then we need to strike a balance between hard news and features. It’s not only ‘here’s what happened today,’ and it certainly is not ‘here are the stories we’ve been working on for a while that we think you’ll be interested in today.’ It has to be balance.

The challenge is finding that balance, and then making sure that the stories in that balance are incredibly well-reported and well-told.

Would you like the broadcast to resemble 60 Minutes in some ways?

The standard of storytelling at 60 Minutes is the best in TV journalism. And I’d certainly like to hold our evening newscast to similar standards of storytelling…

I do think that what I’ve seen at 60 Minutes for the last 14 years is certainly going to inform my sense of how to tell stories over there.

Hartman is in the midst of shooting a story for 60 Minutes currently. He will begin his new job on Jan. 9, 2006…