‘CBS Evening News’ Jan. 6 broadcast sets tongues wagging about Norah O’Donnell’s future

The anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is sparking fresh conspiracy theories — about Norah O’Donnell’s anchor spot at “CBS Evening News,” that is.

Last week, the third-place network flew “CBS Mornings” co-host Tony Dokoupil into Washington from New York to anchor a 9 a.m. special report on last January’s upheaval at the Capitol.

That set tongues wagging inside CBS, where some staffers said it looked like a possible tryout for O’Donnell’s job as CBS News co-president Neeraj Khemlani searches for ways to cut costs at the network.

As reported by The Post, the 47-year-old O’Donnell, who is rumored to pull a salary in the ballpark of $8 million, has lately faced speculation that her plum job may be in jeopardy as she renegotiates her contract to anchor the third-place news broadcast.

CBS staffers buzzed about Norah O’Donnell’s future as anchor of the “Evening News” after the networks broadcast on the anniversary of the Capitol riot.
CBS via Getty Images

Indeed, one insider told On The Money that Khemlani has spoken about the coveted anchor chair to 40-year-old Dokoupil, who earns around $2 million for co-hosting “CBS Mornings” alongside Gayle King and Nate Burleson — and told him that he first needs to become “more seasoned.”

Tony Dokoupil
Tony Dokoupil has emerged as a potential replacement for O’Donnell, if she does not re-sign her contract.
Michele Crowe/CBS

“This is an example of Neeraj trying to prop Dokoupil up and grow him into the role,” the source said.

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A rep for CBS News declined to comment on the chatter but pointed to O’Donnell’s ratings, which have improved although they still lag second-place NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt” and first-place ABC “World News Tonight with David Muir.”

“‘Evening News’ is experiencing the tightest demo gap with NBC in 27 years,” the rep said.

But one CBS insider noted that the network can pay Dokoupil much less to be in third place. The person added that Dokoupil’s presence in DC seemed odd when O’Donnell, the network’s managing editor, is already there — not to mention a slew of other DC-based reporters who could have anchored the show.

“Why would they send Dokoupil?” the insider said. “Wasn’t this the whole reason to move Norah to DC?”

Norah O'Donnell
The network named O’Donnell anchor of “CBS Evening News” in 2019 and spent millions to revamp and relocate the show from New York to DC.
CBS via Getty Images

In 2019, Khemlani’s predecessor Susan Zirinsky spent millions of dollars on a move of the “Evening News” to DC from New York.

Hosting last week’s special report outside the US Capitol, Dokoupil looked fidgety, wearing an oversized parka and clasping his ungloved hands periodically as he lobbed questions at CBS News White House correspondent Nancy Cordes and Justice and Homeland Security correspondent Jeff Pegues.

O’Donnell, who hosted the “Evening News” from the same spot later that night, appeared more in her element, confidently leading the live 6:30 p.m. broadcast.

But there’s still time, and insiders say that they expect to see Dokoupil take on more special reports in the coming months.

Major Garrett
Major Garrett held the ratings steady when he helmed O’Donnell’s show last month.
CBS via Getty Images

O’Donnell may also want to watch out for Major Garrett, who filled in for her during the week of Christmas. According to Nielsen, Garrett, who joined CBS News from Fox News in 2012, averaged 5.1 million total viewers and 891,000 viewers aged 25 to 54 for the week of Dec. 27.

That’s flat in total viewers and a 4.6% increase in adults aged 25 to 54 from what the newscast averaged when O’Donnell anchored two weeks earlier.

Following the holiday slump, O’Donnell’s ratings jumped in the week of Jan. 3, to 5.7 million total viewers and 1 million viewers aged 25 to 54.

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