'60 Mins.' likely to hire from within for Fager's post

NEW YORK – CBS News prexy Andrew Heyward has smoothed out some major wrinkles in the last six months, including uncertainty at “The Early Show” and the succession flap over “60 Minutes” man Don Hewitt. What should he worry about next?

Some suggest the “Evening News,” the third-place news broadcast anchored by Dan Rather.

Yet Heyward does not foresee a time when the 71-year-old Rather would step down. “That’s not going to happen any time soon,” he said.

Nor will he name a successor in advance.

“I don’t think we’re going to make an announcement the way NBC did,” said Heyward, referring to the way the Peacock named Brian Williams to succeed Tom Brokaw, or closer to home, the way in which 80-year-old Don Hewitt agreed to stepped aside for protege Jeff Fager in 18 months.

Instead, Heyward – himself a former executive producer at the flagship broadcast – said the program would rely more heavily on investigative reporting to give it a leg up.

Internal appointee

Heyward did not reveal a successor to Fager’s executive producer job at “60 Minutes II” but said that he and senior veepee Betsy West would find the candidate before the next season begins.

It sounds as though the appointment will be made internally. “We’ll go with someone who knows the CBS culture,” he said.

“60 Minutes” senior producer Josh Howard and “60 Minutes II” executive editor Patti Hassler are rumored to be the natural contenders.

Though CBS News has not experienced the robust growth of its entertainment counterpart over the past couple of seasons, Heyward pointed out some bright spots on its roster.

‘Early’ riser

Heyward sounded sanguine about the recent performance of “The Early Show,” which last week showed a 23% increase in total viewership last week vs. a year earlier.

The third-place ayemer has long been a source of difficulty for the net.

Last fall, it moved to a four-anchor format. “In the early going, there had been some distraction, but the anchors have really settled in,” he said.

Heyward cited the fact that 100 Eye affils have signed up for a co-op promotional campaign to tubthump the breakfast gabber as an endorsement of the revamp.

Another bright spot for Heyward was cops-and-docs newsmag “48 Hours Investigates,” which he said has shown some healthy growth this season.

Aside from the perennial dilemma about reaching younger demos, what is his biggest problem? “The war is a huge challenge,” he said.

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