Behind the scenes, the TV news biz is reeling as top talent exit rarefied posts for new ventures, worn out after an intense year covering the Trump administration and the rise of the coronavirus.
Four of TV’s top news programs — ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “CBS Evening News,” “NBC Nightly News” and the fourth hour of NBC’s “Today” morning franchise — are on the hunt for executive producers. Some prominent TV journalists are testing nontraditional ventures, while “CBS This Morning” shook up its roster by bringing in football analyst Nate Burleson to share anchoring duties with Gayle King and Tony Dokoupil. Fox News continues to rely on a roster of different personnel to lead a 7 p.m. opinion show as well as a slot designed for a liberal commentator at “The Five.”
Across the industry, there’s a collective sense of exhaustion. “There’s extreme burnout and fatigue coming off the campaign and the pandemic, and nothing is really being done to combat it,” says one network correspondent. Even Rachel Maddow, the linchpin of MSNBC’s primetime schedule, is mulling ways to balance her work and life. Endeavor is negotiating with NBCUniversal on her behalf for a new contract, and one topic apparently up for discussion is whether the anchor can carve more time away from delivering her rigorous analysis program.
At NBC News, Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt left for a role at CNN Plus, CNN’s soon-to-launch streaming service; Jenn Suozzo, executive producer at “NBC Nightly News,” is expected to land there as well in a senior role. Joanne LaMarca, executive producer of the “Hoda & Jenna” hour of “Today,” is leaving to spend more time with family. CBS News and ABC News abruptly cut their respective ties with the executive producers of “CBS Evening News” and “Good Morning America,” Jay Shaylor and Michael Corn, without disclosing the reasons for their departure. Corn subsequently joined Nexstar’s NewsNation as president of news.
The rise of digital technology allows newsers to try their hand at something completely different. Sally Shin, recently a senior editor at NBC News, left to join UnitedMasters, a music-technology company. In a few weeks, Dan B. Harris, the weekend co-anchor at “Good Morning America,” will depart ABC News to devote time to a meditation business he has developed.
Others are simply interested in trying a new path. Maureen Maher, a veteran contributor to CBS News’ “48 Hours,” left the program earlier this year to pursue a masters degree in religious studies at Chicago Theological Seminary. Lynn Smith, a longtime anchor for venues such as NBC News and HLN, recently left the business and is offering services as a media trainer. Meanwhile, CNN’s Poppy Harlow gets to have the best of both worlds — embracing something new while keeping her ties to her current job. The CNN anchor will step away from her mid-morning duties at the WarnerMedia cable-news outlet to pursue a special law program at Yale University. But she will work as a fill-in anchor during holidays and other times, and is expected to return to her regular routine next spring.
There is another, simpler reason for the turnover: Companies are hiring. CNN intends to bring on 450 workers to staff its streaming service, CNN Plus. NBCUniversal’s news operations plan to hire 200 people to work on digital products like NBC News Now. NBC News lured Tom Llanas from ABC News, for example, to take a prominent role in its streaming properties.
Newsrooms will have to guard extra hard against their scoop masters getting scooped away in coming months.