Norah O’Donnell will launch her tenure as anchor of “CBS Evening News” with talk about outer space.
The anchor will hold a joint interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy in which they discuss the future of space exploration, part of a broader focus by CBS News next week on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. O’Donnell is expected to interview both executives during her debut next Monday on “Evening News,” then anchor the show’s Tuesday broadcast from the Kennedy Space Center. She will also anchor “Man on the Moon,” a 10 p.m. special slated for next Tuesday that will weave together archival footage of former anchor Walter Cronkite’s coverage of the moon landing along with astronaut Neil Armstrong’s narrative of the event.
The new face behind the desk of “Evening News” is part of the network’s ambitious plans to overhaul its morning and evening standbys and get more competitive with rivals. O’Donnell will be just the second woman at CBS News to lead the venerable program solo and will play an instrumental role in a big bet by the network, which plans to move her and the program to Washington, D.C. from New York City at some point in the fall.
She will carry a burden that has weighed on several of her predecessors. Despite the program’s vaunted history – it has been anchored over the decades by some of the industry’s most notable personae, ranging from Cronkite and Dan Rather to Katie Couric – the show has been mired in third place for years, well behind ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “NBC Nightly News.”
O’Donnell also will interview two of the people who were by Cronkite’s side for the historic Apollo coverage: former CBS News space correspondent David Schoumacher and former CBS News director Joel Banow, who created simulations and animation that accompanied the coverage. O’Donnell also will tell the story of three trailblazing women who worked on the Apollo 11 mission.
CBS News plans to make use of archival footage of Cronkite anchoring coverage of Apollo 11’s lift-off and subsequent moon landing. At 9:32 a.m. on Tuesday, July 16, CBSN and CBS News Radio will re-air coverage of the lift-off in real time and later, at 10:56 p.m, will air real-time coverage of Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon.
Other CBS News programs will also reflect on the space event, including “CBS This Morning,” “Face The Nation, “CBS This Morning Saturday” and “CBS Sunday Morning.”