CBS News President Tells Staff 'Evening News' Anchor Transition Didn't Go Smoothly, Hurt Morale

David Rhodes - 2016 Winter TCA Tour  2- Getty - H 2017
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David Rhodes was interviewed at a CBS town hall Thursday morning by Norah O'Donnell.

In late May, it came out that after six years as anchor of the CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley would be vacating the chair.

In an employee town hall Thursday morning, CBS News president David Rhodes was asked if he thinks the rocky transition has hurt company morale. 

"I absolutely do. And I'm concerned about it," he said, according to someone who viewed the event. "Transitions are difficult. We've had some very smooth ones while I've been here, and this one wasn't one of the smoothest. And I'm concerned about that. It didn't go the way that I wanted it to go."

Rhodes was interviewed by CBS This Morning anchor Norah O'Donnell, who passed along employee questions. One employee asked: "What was the strategy behind getting rid of one anchor without having a plan in place?"

Rhodes, according to the individual who watched the event, replied, "Well, first, I wouldn't say that we don't have a plan in place. … If we had no plan, we'd have no broadcast tonight, and we do have a broadcast tonight, and each night."

Rhodes said he has no one in mind right now for the role but said: "I think we will find the right team of people to put this on. And I think largely that team is going to be drawn from the people who are putting it on today, because they're doing a very good job."

Later, he said of a prospective anchor, "I want someone who can really carry the best values of the kind of reporting that we're trying to do here every night."

O'Donnell passed along a question about CBS picking a woman to anchor the broadcast, thereby making her the third solo female anchor.

In response, Rhodes said: "Should it be a woman? Could we benefit from having a person of color leading it? We wouldn't be the only ones doing that right now. But that might be important as well. But that's not going to lead the decision about what we do."

Rhodes complimented the work of Pelley and the entire CBS Evening News team and said the broadcast team has "restored the basic values of what was always important about the CBS Evening News to us as an organization and to the wider audience." He said the show has won back viewers "who maybe had been alienated by things we'd done before."

Of the CBS Evening News, he commented, "It's not that it's in a bad place. Scott left us in a good place. But of course we can do better."

Rhodes said that Anthony Mason, who has filled in for Pelley, has shown "extraordinary versatility" and has helped the network through the transition.

Later, when asked if the rumor was true about the bureau moving to Manhattan's Hudson Yards, Rhodes replied, "That would be great." He mentioned discussions about how the company could operate more efficiently and said that Hudson Yards, as well as the Farley Post Office Building, "comes up from time to time." He also said that Queens and Connecticut have been discussed. "Everything's on the table," he said.

When discussing coverage of the Trump administration, Rhodes said that CBS is very careful. Mistakes happen, he said, "but for the most part we have stayed out of trouble."