Network veteran made second-in-command

CBS News has named network veteran Chris Dinan senior broadcast producer of “Evening News With Katie Couric,” making him second-in-command of the third-ranked newscast.

Dinan will report to exec producer Rick Kaplan, former president of CNN and MSNBC, who joined CBS in May and has turned “Evening News” into a more traditional, hard-news broadcast after some early experiments with features and opinion.

The newscast’s ratings are running consistently lower than when Bob Schieffer succeeded Dan Rather as interim anchor, but CBS News veep Paul Friedman believes that any quality gap between CBS and its rivals has been erased.

“This broadcast is at least the equal of the other two broadcasts night after night,” he said. “It’s frustrating that the ratings aren’t coming up quickly, but it takes time to change perceptions and behavior.”

Kaplan accompanied Couric on her 10-day reporting trip to the Middle East, a trip geared to coincide with Gen. David Petraeus’ report to Congress on the progress being made during the American troop “surge” in Iraq.

The newscast devoted much of each night to Couric’s dispatches from the region, which raised her profile, if not ratings.

CBS’ “Evening News” averaged 5.465 million viewers that week, shortened by Labor Day. ABC’s “World News” averaged 7.8 million and NBC’s “Nightly News” 7.78 million, according to Nielsen.

The CBS newscast has been without a No. 2 since the departure of Bill Owens, who returned to “60 Minutes” last spring.

Also rumored to be a candidate for the job was former “Early Show” No. 2 Michael Bass, who is in negotiations to remain at CBS News after the net hired former “Good Morning America” exec producer Shelley Ross to run “The Early Show.”

Dinan joined CBS News in 1998 as a producer and has been a broadcast producer on the show for seven years. Before that he spent six years as a producer for “CBS This Morning” and “CBS Morning News.”

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