THR's 35 Most Powerful People in Media
Since Fager took the top job at CBS News in February 2011, the division has rediscovered some of that old swagger from when “third place” was not reflexively used to describe the house that Edward R. Murrow built.
In less than a year, Fager, 57, and his deputy, CBS News president David Rhodes, have remade their morning and evening broadcasts, installing Scott Pelley at CBS Evening News and Charlie Rose and Gayle King at the new CBS This Morning. Original reporting and hard news are stressed on both shows. “It’s such an important time,” says Fager. “It’s an election year. There’s a war going on. We’re slowly pull- ing out of a recession. The stories that we cover matter.”
Morning, averaging 2.5 million viewers during the first quarter, might have jettisoned morning TV staples like cooking segments, but Rose and King leverage their considerable connections to land boldface names: King visited Michelle Obama in the White House just as a controversial book about her marriage was hitting stores, and Rose’s status means Hollywood heavyweights like George Clooney and Harvey Weinstein make the show a requisite stop.
Executive producer of 60 Minutes since 2004, Fager knows how to mix the deadly serious with the seriously entertaining: On a recent Sunday, 60 led with Lesley Stahl’s interview with infamous former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and concluded with Lara Logan’s feature on Aerosmith, during which guitarist Joe Perry reveled in ridiculing Steven Tyler.
With an average audience of more than 14 million viewers this season, 60 routinely makes TV’s top 10. Meanwhile, Pelley’s Evening News has added nearly a million viewers this year and beat ABC’s World News in the all-important 25-to-54 demo during the week of Feb. 13, the first time CBS had overtaken ABC in six years. “We happen to be up in ratings,” says Fager. “But if someone said, ‘You’ve got to go in a different direction,’ then you’ve got to find some other team.”
The married father of three children in their 20s, including a son who is a news photographer at the New Orleans CBS affiliate, was forewarned about his workload. “The one thing Les Moonves said before I took the job: ‘You know, your golf game is not going to be very good.’ ”