CBS News Moves Early to Dominate Syria Coverage

Charlie Rose

Eye lands headline-making Assad interview and is only net to have reporter in Damascus

President Obama has said the U.S. will studiously avoid putting “boots on the ground” during any conflict with Syria, but the same does not hold true for CBS News.

The Eye’s news division has already scored some impressive wins in its coverage of the Syria situation by figuring out how to get its journalists into the strife-torn nation. CBS has had a reporter, Elizabeth Palmer, holding forth from Damascus, billing her on air as “the only network reporter inside Damascus.” And on Sunday, the network scored another coup: Charlie Rose, the “CBS This Morning” co-anchor, secured an interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the network immediately began touting it on today’s edition of “Face The Nation.”

The two big “gets” come despite the fact that CBS lacks the cable presence of NBC News and trails both NBC and ABC is both the morning-show wars and the evening-news ratings (though the network has been making ongoing gains over the course of more than a year).

SEE ALSO: Charlie Rose Lands Interview with Syrian President Assad

A CBS News spokeswoman, Sonya McNair, offered only light details of how Rose scored the interview with the Syrian leader, saying only that Rose “has been working on it for a while.” However, it seems clear he had strong backing from the larger organization. Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” traveled with Rose to conduct the talk with al-Assad, she said.

According to CBS, the interview is the Syrian leader’s first with an American television network in about two years.

CBS will air portions from the interview on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, with continuing coverage on and “The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.” Rose is set to air the interview in its entirely on his PBS-based “Charlie Rose” Monday night, and was prepared to speak about his interview on PBS’ new “PBS NewsHour Weekend” with anchor Hari Sreenivasan, according to posts the PBS journalist made on Twitter earlier today.

Other networks have also demonstrated enterprise in covering the Syria situation. ABC News has for weeks been interviewing ordinary Syrian citizens about their lives, and began broadcasting a series, “Syria: Caught in the Crossfire,” on Sept. 4 on “World News with Diane Sawyer.”  About three months ago ABC News found several residents of the northern city of Aleppo, gave them cameras, and asked them to record their daily lives.  Other reports in the series were expected to turn up on “Nightline”  as well as ABC News radio outlets.

Other networks have moved to cover the unfolding situation – CNN last week aired a second hour of “The Lead with Jake Tapper” as a means of offering more Syria discussion – and more are certain to join the fray depending on how events unfurl this week.

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  1. And it was CBS correspondent Margaret Brennan in London who asked Secretary Kerry the question that led to him describing how the Syrians could give up their chemical weapons and thus changed the whole course of this crisis!

  2. suibne says:

    ah, charlie doing his peter arnette impersonation, in which he gets to prove himself a capable propagandist for the enemy.

    • Jay says:

      Just proves that you have not watched Charlie Rose’s interviews. Perhaps you were hoping for a shrill, finger-pointing Q&A a la Bill O’Reilly?
      The man was in interviewing a dictator in his lair – so to speak. The fact that he was able to ask direct and tough questions while being respectful at the same time, was a lesson in artful and professional journalism. Too bad, most viewers have been numbed to the point of expecting interviews that are either fawning edification on one extreme or the Spanish Inquisition on the other.

  3. Vote says:

    Why would Syria agree to an interview with Rose???

    It must be safe!

  4. dougjmiller says:

    Fortunately the majority of Americans understand that the Syrian civil war is between 2 evil forces. On the one side you have the autocratic dictatorship of Assad in power and backed by the Shi-ite Islamic dictatorship which controls Iran and the Hezbollah terrorist organization which controls parts of Lebanon. The forces fighting to overthrow the Assad regime are dominated by al-Qaeda terrorists that want to impose a Sunni-Islamic dictatorship in Syria. There are many decent Syrians who desire freedom and democracy, but they are mainly peaceful and many are either dead or refugees. They will be eliminated no matter which bad guys win. America is already $17 trillion in debt and tied down in other conflicts. America should not be involved militarily in the Syrian civil war.

  5. Haywood Jablomi says:

    CBS shows up at a dictator’s palace and “scores” a fawning softball interview. What a surprise.

  6. They should have picked Sharyl Attkisson to talk to him. But that would be credible. Can’t have that.

  7. Kurt says:

    Of course it would be CBS, Syria would never let a reputable news organization into the country.

  8. suibne says:

    cbs….the new cnn. anyway, nobody cares about syria. assad and khomenei both are dead men walking. only a matter of time. but not with obama at the trigger. americans do not want to follow the pied prince trippingly oer the plain. he’s done too. benghazi murderer et al.

  9. Tom Rapier says:

    I will correct my own typo: Damascus

  10. JetMagda says:

    Just give CNN a potted palm and a rooftop
    and they can be there too.

  11. Tom Rapier says:

    You have omitted the fact that CBS NEWS has had not only Elizabeth Palmer reporting from Damiscus but Clarissa Ward has been reporting at great risk from Syria with the rebel groups.

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