Critic's Notebook: Jeff Glor Makes His Debut as Anchor of 'CBS Evening News' as Nation Asks, "Jeff Who?"

Jeff Glor - CBS - Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of Timothy Kuratek/CBS

The relatively unknown 42-year-old network veteran marks his first appearance as the new anchorman of 'CBS Evening News.'

Jeff Glor, the new anchorman of CBS Evening News, faces a tough assignment. The broadcast has long finished in third place in the ratings and is currently getting its clock cleaned by ABC's David Muir, who has the largest number of viewers, and NBC's Lester Holt, who boasts the most coveted demographics. It doesn't help that Glor is taking over for Scott Pelley, whose departure from the gig wasn't exactly a model of smooth corporate transitioning.

When word came of Glor's appointment, which came while Anthony Mason was filling in, most viewers probably asked "Jeff who?" even though the 42-year-old has been a CBS veteran for 10 years, appearing on just about every one of their news shows as a key utility player. It's hard not to think that the network took the easy, inexpensive way out after a five-month search. It's easy to imagine the executives finally threw up their hands and said, "Hey, what about Jeff?"

Glor made his debut appearance on the broadcast Monday night, and it was obvious that he wasn't there to break the mold. He's the youngest network news anchor (by a hair, since Muir is just two years older) and his boyish, unlined face and toothy smile make him look even younger. It was all the more impressive that he displayed none of the nervousness that might be expected from someone standing in the shoes of such figures as Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather, not to mention being only the seventh anchor in the show's 55-year history.

Glor certainly didn't inject himself unnecessarily into the proceedings. Beginning with a segment on Wall Street's positive reaction to the passage of the tax bill, he smoothly passed the ball to a series of correspondents reporting on stories including joint U.S. and South Korea military exercises, the latest developments in the Russia investigation and Trump's decision to remove nearly two million acres from Utah national monuments. There also was a preview of Stephen Colbert's upcoming interview with Billy Bush which, of course, was included only because it was newsworthy, not because Colbert also appears on CBS.  

The show inevitably wound down with the sort of human-interest puff pieces designed to gently lead viewers into the likes of Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight. It was fun to watch astronauts enjoy a pizza party on the space station, and touching to see a team of dedicated dental professionals treat lions and tigers with severe toothaches. The broadcast concluded with the anchor looking intently into the camera and saying, "I'm Jeff Glor, thank you for watching," which was about as personal as he got.

It seemed like a missed opportunity. Yes, the news, not the anchorman, is the thing. But since most viewers would have been hard-pressed to pick Glor out of a lineup, it might have been helpful to have him introduce himself and provide some information about his extensive background. He has been making the publicity rounds, including an obligatory appearance earlier in the day on CBS This Morning. But viewers who hadn't previously known that it was Glor's first show would have no idea from this broadcast, with the network apparently banking on the idea that all white guys look alike.

Of course, network news anchors aren't what they used to be. We're long past the days when Cronkite was "the most trusted man in America," and viewers seem less interested in who's actually reading them the news. And why should they be, since most of them get it from their phones? Glor was a safe choice for the network. He's got the chops and the credentials for the job. And he blends in seamlessly. Still, it was hard not to wish that he had just a touch of gray in his hair, if only for nostalgia's sake.