CBS News Moves Early to Dominate Syria Coverage

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

Charlie Rose

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 CBSnews.com 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.