Regular viewers of the CBS Evening News may have noticed the absence of anchor Norah O’Donnell over the past few nights. O’Donnell, who has hosted the show since 2019, has been off the air this week, leaving many to wonder why she is not on the Evening News currently.
Norah O’Donnell’s Background at CBS
Norah O’Donnell is a veteran news anchor and journalist who has worked for CBS News for over a decade. She originally served as the news anchor for The Early Show and the CBS Morning News shows before becoming Chief White House Correspondent.
In 2019, O’Donnell was appointed anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, replacing Jeff Glor in the role. This made O’Donnell only the third woman ever to solo anchor a network evening news program.
Since taking over the Evening News, O’Donnell has worked to establish herself in the role. She moved the show’s production from New York to Washington, D.C. She has also sought to take the broadcast out into the field more often for live remotes relating to major news stories.
Speculation Over O’Donnell’s CBS Future
Despite her efforts to put her stamp on the Evening News, O’Donnell’s time in the anchor chair has not been without controversy. Last year, reports surfaced that CBS News co-president Neeraj Khemlani was seeking O’Donnell’s replacement, contacting other major anchors about taking over the show.
This was seen as a slight against O’Donnell and led to tensions between her and network executives. Ultimately O’Donnell signed a new contract in April 2022, but with a significantly reduced yearly salary of $3.8 million down from $8 million.
The pay cut and ongoing ratings struggles for the Evening News have fueled speculation that O’Donnell’s future as anchor is unstable. Her recent absence from the broadcast has once again led some to wonder if CBS plans to replace her.
Why O’Donnell Is Out This Week
However, CBS has clarified that O’Donnell’s absence this week is due to a long-planned vacation she had scheduled. The anchor is reportedly taking some pre-approved time off from her anchoring duties.
While vacation time is normal for anchors, the timing of O’Donnell’s break has raised eyebrows given her unsteady status at the network. But CBS maintains this was vacation that was scheduled in advance and has nothing to do with any forced leave or dismissal from the program.
O’Donnell Expected to Return Next Week
According to CBS News, Norah O’Donnell is expected to return to her regular anchoring duties on the CBS Evening News next week after her brief vacation. So her absence is not related to any major shakeup or removal from the show.
During O’Donnell’s vacation, fill-in anchors have included correspondent John Dickerson and CBS Mornings co-host Tony Dokoupil. But the network states that O’Donnell will be back behind the Evening News desk as scheduled following her scheduled break this week.
Ongoing Uncertainty Over Anchor Role
While O’Donnell is just on a brief vacation, her position as anchor remains unclear in the long-term. Ratings for the CBS Evening News continue to lag behind rivals at ABC and NBC. And O’Donnell is reported to have a strained relationship with network management.
So while she is expected back next week, industry insiders see her hold on the Evening News anchor chair as tenuous at best. Any further dips in viewership or clashes with CBS executives could see her potentially replaced, despite being just a few years into the prestigious job.
O’Donnell’s fans will be eager to see her back on air soon. But her recent absence is just the latest reminder of the uncertainty around her future as anchor amidst fierce competition and cost-cutting measures at CBS News. For now, the network maintains public support for O’Donnell as it works to try and build momentum for its third-place evening newscast.