2022 was a midterm elections year, which often means TV news coverage often focuses on that throughout the year. But so much more happened in the months leading up to the big November day (or week).
Journalists flocked to Ukraine and Russia in February to cover Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continued to report from the war-torn region in the succeeding weeks and months. A Fox News team even risked their life for their work. Two off-air journalists—Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova—were killed and an on-air reporter—Ben Hall—was badly injured while reporting from the ground. The latter was eventually returned to the U.S.
There’s also the story from May about the overturning of Roe v. Wade; Elon Musk and Twitter, the return of Donald Trump to politics, the economy and Covid-19; the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, and the Jan. 6 committee hearings.
While this is happening, cable and broadcast news outlets continued to be impacted significantly by the evolution in how Americans consume the news—increasingly moving to streaming services and online news outlets—in 2022, resulting Nielsen ratings among viewers under 55 to decline, not to mention an unpredictable economy that has hurt ad revenue and caused execs to make difficult decisions on the staffing front.
2022 has been a unique year for news division leaders. CNN appointed a new chief executive in Chris Licht to replace Jeff Zucker this past February. Zucker was forced to leave the network after failing to disclose a romance with his direct report, communications and marketing head Alison Gollust. Licht promptly shut down the heavily-scrutinized subscription streaming news platform CNN+ after just three weeks in existence, and has laid off scores of staffers as the network cuts costs significantly and embarks on a shift in coverage and tone next year.
ABC News’ president Kim Godwin has been grappling with how to properly handle a previously-undisclosed romance between GMA3 co-hosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes, while remaining America’s most-watched news network.
Fox News launched Jesse Watters Primetime weeknights at 7 p.m. ET in 2022, and it promptly became the most-watched hour in cable news history. On the downside, the network is fighting multiple defamation lawsuits, one of which will go trial in April 2023.
MSNBC president Rashida Jones named Alex Wagner 9 p.m. host for Tuesday-Fridays (Alex Wagner Tonight), with Rachel Maddow moving to Mondays-only. Jones also launched analysis weekend shows Symone, The Katie Phang Show and gave Chris Jansing the network’s weekday 1 p.m. news hour. Outside of the Wagner appointment, the network’s most notable move was expanding Morning Joe to a four hour show, now airing 6-10 a.m. ET.
Additionally, KC Sullivan replaced longtime chairman Mark Hoffman as head of CNBC this past fall.
Those are some of the top TV news stories of 2022, and to mark the end of the year, we decided to compile a list of the 10-most-viewed stories published on TVNewser this year. Full disclosure: A handful of the most-read posts for 2022 are of the TVNewser overnight, weekly, monthly and quarterly ratings variety, well as stories published prior to 2022 but happened to get some traction this year.
Before we get into it, we’d like to wish all of our loyal TVNewser readers a relaxing end of 2022 and let us be one of the first to say, Happy New Year!
10. This Week with George Stephanopoulos Executive Producer Dax Tejera Dies
Some really sad news broke over Christmas weekend: This Week with George Stephanopoulos ep Dax Tejera passed away on Friday, Dec. 23 from a heart attack. He was just a few weeks shy of his 38th birthday.
Tejera was quite popular in TV news circles, which may helps explain why this story made its way into the Top 10 most-read for 2022, despite having been published less than a week ago.
Tejera was named executive producer of This Week in February 2020, just weeks before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He joined ABC News as a senior producer in the Washington Bureau in 2017 producing remote-anchored broadcasts from across the country and specials from the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore and Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki. Prior to overseeing This Week as its ep, Tejera managed newsmaker interviews and covered major breaking news, including the pandemic, the 2020 presidential election and the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
In addition, Tejera worked on broadcast and streaming special events for ABC News. He also served as the ep for primetime streaming election specials leading up to the 2018 midterms and launched shows designed to expand ABC News’ streaming programming, including The Briefing Room, an instant analysis of notable moments in the White House press briefing room.
Prior to joining ABC News, Tejera was the ep of America with Jorge Ramos, and was previously a producer at MSNBC, helping launch Jansing & Co. and the now-defunct Now with Alex Wagner. He started his career with NBC News, working as an assignment editor and researcher.
Tejera leaves behind his wife, Veronica, and two young daughters, Sofia and Ella.
9. Kayleigh McEnany Is Pregnant with Her Second Child
Former Trump press secretary-turned-cable newser Kayleigh McEnany has become a popular figure on Fox News over the past year, particularly as co-host of the network’s midday round table talk program Outnumbered. It should be no surprise, then, that her decision to announce on-air that she’s four months pregnant with her second child was one of TVNewser’s most-read stories of the year.
On June 16, McEnany disclosed that she already knew the baby’s gender but will reveal it “in the coming weeks.” (Update: the child arrived in late-November and it’s a boy named Nash). She added, “What a blessing, we prayed a lot about this and God blessed us with a child, a second child to join baby Blake, my daughter.”
McEnany then managed to squeeze in her employer, saying, “there’s no more supportive workplace to be a working mom than Fox News Channel.”
8. Criminal Defense Attorney and CNN Contributor Page Pate Dies at 55
A very sad story makes our Top 10: The tragic passing of CNN legal contributor Page Pate.
Pate died in a tragic drowning accident off of St. Simons Island, located in the southeastern region of the state of Georgia, on Sept. 11. He was only 55.
According to The Brunswick News, Pate and his teenage son were swimming at Gould’s Inlet when rip currents swept the two into open waters. His son managed to make it back to shore, but Pate had to be rescued by water rescue personnel—who immediately performed CPR on him before transporting him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Pate was a partner at Pate, Johnson & Church, which had offices in Atlanta and Brunswick, Ga. He was also a founding member of the Georgia Innocence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals convicted of crimes they did not commit in the state of Georgia.
Pate provided legal analysis for a variety of CNN programs across dayparts. According to a TVEyes search, his final CNN appearance was Saturday, Sept. 10 on the Boris Sanchez-led edition of CNN Newsroom. He died the following morning.
Pate was also a legal analyst for NPR as well as other national and local media outlets.
7. CNN Will No Longer Commission Series and Films From Outside Companies, Citing ‘Ever-Increasing Cost’
The transformation of CNN is the most significant media story of 2022, and TVNewser coverage of the network’s decision to end partnerships with third-party content creators made for one our most-read pieces of the year.
In an October memo to staff, CNN CEO Chris Licht explained the move saying, “this was a very difficult decision to make, and it was based, in large part, on the ever-increasing cost of commissioning third-party premium content. However, I want to be clear that longform content remains an important pillar of our programming.”
Licht added that under the leadership of CNN Original Series and Films boss Amy Entelis, the network will look into “how we can approach longform content in house … My goal is to find a model that will enable us to bring our audiences this type of programming with greater flexibility.”
CNN has served as home to award-winning unscripted programming for the past decade, primarily broadcasting the premium, advertiser-friendly content in weekend primetime. The network has partnered with outside production companies on Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, This Is Life with Lisa Ling, United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell, and on newer CNN Original Series like the critically-acclaimed Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy, all of which have all garnered Primetime Emmy Awards but will conclude their respective runs on CNN. There’s also popular the decades’ franchise produced by Tom Hanks‘ Playtone brand (starting with The Sixties), and CNN Films like Blackfish, which the network acquired at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, as well as Navalny (2022) and John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020).
In 2023, CNN Original Series and Films will distribute six series and six films before shutting down the partnerships.
6. Fred Hickman, Former ESPN and CNN Sports Anchor, Passes Away
Not often do TVNewser sports stories break into our annual Top 10. However, Fred Hickman was no ordinary anchor — a journalist whose work spanning sports and cable news outlets.
Hickman tragically passed away in November. He was only 66.
Yes, Hickman was most recently an anchor & managing editor for the evening newscast on Black News Channel, but was better known to TV sports audiences.
A CNN original, Hickman was on the air on CNN’s first day where alongside Nick Charles, who passed away in 2011, anchored the network’s first nightly sports wrap-up show. He was also the first person to host Inside The NBA, TNT’s award-winning pre-game and post-game basketball show.
Hickman spent 19 years at CNN/TBS, after which he moved to YES Network, becoming the network’s first anchor when it launched in 2002. He hosted the pre-game and the post-game shows for the New York Yankees and the New Jersey Nets.
Hickman joined ESPN in 2004, becoming a SportsCenter anchor. In addition to his SportsCenter duties, Hickman also anchored Baseball Tonight, ESPN Classic, NBA Shoot Around, and NBA Coast to Coast.
After his stint at ESPN, Hickman spent time at Fox Sports South, WVUE, WVLA, and WDVM.
5. CNBC’s Wilfred Frost Leaving Co-Anchor Role, But ‘Staying Part of the Comcast Family’
TVNewser readers were intrigued by the news from back in February that CNBC Closing Bell co-anchor Wilfred Frost and his wife would be moving to London, and that the financial journalist would be leaving Closing Bell as a result.
While CNBC viewers no longer see him daily with Sara Eisen on weekday afternoons, Frost made clear at the time that he would remain part of the Comcast family as a CNBC contributor, an NBC News contributor and that he would begin working with Sky News in late-March.
Frost is a former fund manager and son of legendary British TV host and journalist David Frost. He followed his late father into TV journalism, joining CNBC in 2014 as co-anchor of the 5 a.m. ET program Worldwide Exchange. Frost transitioned to Closing Bell in March 2018, and Eisen, his former co-anchor on Worldwide Exchange, joined him on Closing Bell in Dec. 2018.
4. John Roberts Returns to Fox News After Spending Most of Last Week in Hospital
Health-related stories featuring TV newsers always seem to garner a multitude of clicks, and this one about John Roberts is no different.
The Fox News anchor tweeted the following on the evening of February 1: “An amazing advance: Dr. Batchelor at @InovaHealth used a tiny ultrasound inside my coronary artery. It discovered the existing stent that had closed up hadn’t been fully expanded when it was first put in. Standard angiography wouldn’t pick that up. Advice to folks facing the same … ”
He tweeted the following morning that he is “battery-powered now!”
The veteran TV newser has experienced medical issues over the years, especially pertaining to his heart. Back in July 2018, the team at MedStar Washington Hospital was able to diagnose and cure what was blocking arteries. Roberts had a setback from that procedure this past February, and spent some time in the hospital. Upon returning his return to America Reports, he told his co-anchor Sandra Smith, “Things are hazy. I spent most of the last week in a hospital or in an MRI or a CAT scan or in a Cath lab or variousother things … a tough road. Hit some setbacks. Had a great team of doctors. I’m on the mend and feeling better.
3. Joshua Johnson Leaves NBC News
The third-most-read non-Nielsen ratings TVNewser story of 2022 had to do with the sudden cancellation of the NBC News Now primetime program Now Tonight with Joshua Johnson.
NBC News’ ad supported streaming service streamed the program weekdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT from December 2021 until November 18, 2022. The network says it is announcing a new 8 p.m. streaming show soon, but in the interim, Now Tonight has been going with rotating anchors.
Prior to joining NBC News Now in Nov. 2021, Johnson hosted The Week With Joshua Johnson weekends from 8-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC. He joined NBC News full-time in September 2020 after three years as host of NPR’s national talk show 1A.
2. Robin Meade Says Goodbye: ‘You Will Always Be My Morning Sunshine’
The second most-read story on TVNewser for 2022 also happens to be one of the newer ones to make our list. It went viral and it stunned our readers.
As part of the aforementioned company-wide cost-cutting measures, CNN announced last month that sister brand HLN is ceasing live programming, and as a result, Morning Express with Robin Meade was forced to end its run on December 6 after more than 21 years on the air; only to be replaced by a simulcast of CNN This Morning.
Meade has been an informative, upbeat and perhaps most importantly to her small and mighty audience a consistent presence in the mornings on a network that has been anything but consistent over its existence. Meade has been the face of HLN for more than half of its existence, having joined the network on Sept. 11, 2001. She was the longest-tenured female host of a national morning show up until earlier this month.
Meade gave an extended shoutout to and thanked her Morning Express on and off air colleagues during, all of whom appeared on camera for the goodbye segment.
“Doing this show, with you, has been the joy of my life,” Meade said, motioning towards her staff and adding, “and my biggest concern is for my colleagues that they land on their feet and I wish I can make this change less scary.”
Meade then addressed the viewers: “To you: Maybe you’re at home or listening on the radio or you’re watching on the treadmill. Thank you for letting us start your day all these years. Thank you for letting this kid from a middle of a cornfield do something beyond her wildest dreams. You’re my first thought in the morning and my final thought before I fall asleep. I felt protective of you and I hope you felt like you had a guardian on patrol for you each morning.
I’ve heard that you mourn something when it passes, either because you feel guilty for leaving something unresolved, or you mourn because you truly appreciate something for what it was. The emotions this morning are of appreciation for you and for this 21-year run. You will always be my morning sunshine.”
1. Neil Cavuto Hasn’t Appeared on Fox News Since Jan. 10
Back in late-January, TVNewser started receiving scores of anonymous emails from folks wanting to know why Neil Cavuto was absent from his Fox News and Fox Business shows.
Viewers noticed Charles Payne and Sandra Smith had been guest-hosting his weekday Fox News show Your World With Neil Cavuto more frequently than usual. David Asman, Jackie DeAngelis, Ashley Webster, Edward Lawrence were rotating on his Fox Business show, Cavuto: Coast to Coast, and on his Fox News weekend show Cavuto Live, as well.
Weeks went by, but none of the hosts addressed Cavuto’s absence.
Had he been fired? His ratings had been low (by Fox News standards), but he’s a network original. That’d be an odd move, especially without any public announcement. Perhaps it was an especially rough bout with Covid-19, we thought.
Cavuto had indeed tested positive for the virus in October 2021 after a live episode of his 4 p.m. Fox News show and disclosed his positive test the following day. He appeared on Howard Kurtz‘s MediaBuzz program the following weekend to discuss his experience and pleaded with viewers to get vaccinated. “Life is too short to be an ass. Life is way too short to be ignorant of the promise of something that is helping people worldwide. Stop the deaths. Stop the suffering. Please, get vaccinated. Please,” said Cavuto.
Cavuto’s health issues are well-documented, and contracting the virus had to have been scary for the longtime Fox Newser, who is immunocompromised. Cavuto underwent heart surgery in 2016 after being diagnosed with “widow maker” heart disease. He was previously diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997 and also successfully battled “near-life-ending” cancer.
We went ahead and published a story wondering what was going on. Apparently neither we (nor our anonymous emailers) were alone in our curiosity about Cavuto’s lengthy absence because the story wracked up a stunning amount of page views.
Neil Cavuto Hasn’t Appeared on Fox News Since Jan. 10 was our most-read story for 2022.
Cavuto returned to the air 11 days after our story published, Feb. 21. He explained to viewers that he contracted Covid-19 again and had been hospitalized with “Covid pneumonia.” He said he had urged Fox not to talk about his illness. “They were honoring my wishes, out of respect for my privacy, even though they were getting a lot of heat trying to protect my privacy,” he said.
He continued, “I wasn’t really hiding anything. I just felt I wasn’t the story. The stories on this show were and are the story. It’s about you, it’s not about me. Just like this show. My opinions don’t matter. You matter. The news matters.”
However, he acknowledged, “I didn’t want to become the story, but for many of you, I did.”
Thankfully, he’s back on the Fox News air and seems to be doing OK.