Mitchell up 'Early' for job


NEW YORK -- "The Early Show" acted quickly to add a new member to the on-air staff, promoting "Saturday Early Show" co-anchor Russ Mitchell to news anchor for CBS' weekday breakfast broadcast.

The announcement was made Thursday, three days after the eye said co-anchor Rene Syler will leave the show Dec. 22.

Mitchell's arrival Jan. 2 will help to more clearly define the roles at the morning news show, which has been mired in third place since its beginning and suffering from the sometimes awkward four co-anchor setup that it has had. Having a permanent news anchor, such as NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America," gives "Early Show" the ability to use co-anchors Harry Smith, Julie Chen and Hannah Storm better than had been done.

"The fact of the matter is that on this program right now, it's difficult to know when the news ends and the program begins and where the program begins and the news ends," vp morning broadcasts Steve Friedman said. Under the current system, each of the co-anchors would rotate the role of news anchor as well as interviews and other segments. But it has been an unworkable system for a while.

"You must have defined roles on a show," said Friedman, who joined CBS this year after successful runs at "Today" and elsewhere.

CBS News president Sean McManus agreed.

"I think the experiment of not having a permanent news presence both in terms of an anchor and a physical location wasn't working as much as people had hoped it would work," McManus said.

Mitchell's presence will give Smith, for example, the ability to travel more. Mitchell has been the co-anchor of the "Saturday Early Show" since it began in 1997 and also anchors the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News." He will remain as anchor of the Sunday broadcast and contribute pieces to "CBS Sunday Morning," though he said in an interview Thursday that it will be limited by his new Monday-Friday anchoring duties.

"It's important for me to get out in the field and report," Mitchell said.

McManus praised Mitchell and said that he has tremendous range as a reporter and anchor.

November gave "Early Show" some good news, which notched its largest viewership for the past week since January.