Jane Pauley has been named the new host of “CBS Sunday Morning,” replacing Charles Osgood, who retired from the broadcast Sunday after a 22-year run there.
Pauley, the former “Today Show” co-host, appeared on the air alongside Osgood in an unusual — and dramatic — announcement at his farewell telecast’s conclusion. “I’m honored beyond words to follow in your footsteps,” she said.
In a statement released a few minutes after the show ended, Pauley said: “Charles Osgood set the standard for ‘CBS Sunday Morning,’ and it’s a great honor to be given the chance to further our show’s legacy of excellence. I look forward to bringing loyal viewers the kind of engaging, original reporting that has made the broadcast so irresistible for so long.”
She’ll begin Oct. 9.
A longtime contributor to “Sunday Morning,” Pauley is best known as the co-host of “Today,” and later as “Dateline NBC” anchor. She becomes only the third host in “Sunday Morning” history and also its first female anchor. Charles Kuralt, who died in 1997, was the inaugural anchor of “Sunday Morning,” which launched in 1979.
Indiana native Pauley, 65, began her broadcasting career in 1972 at the Indianapolis CBS affiliate before joining Chicago’s WMAQ — the NBC-owned station — in 1975. She was a “Today” co-anchor from 1976 to 1989 and a “Dateline NBC” anchor from 1992 to 2003. She joined “CBS Sunday Morning” as a correspondent in 2014.
Meanwhile, Osgood’s 90-minute tribute was TV’s version of a 21-gun salute — a send-off to a beloved presence, who came to define a TV treasure through his voice, tastes and sartorial style, confined largely and memorably to that bow tie.
Already a major CBS News figure when he took over “Sunday Morning” in 1994, Osgood had to replace Kuralt, another TV legend. “Sunday Morning” had been conceived as an oasis and magazine — the less hurried Sunday morning counterpart to that other CBS News institution with the much higher profile, “60 Minutes.” If “60” was — and is — defined by time (its symbol a stopwatch), then “CBS Sunday Morning” was designed to be timeless.
Osgood’s tribute was a gentle affirmation of that mission, and also a celebration of it. A number of pretaped tributes were included, from David Letterman, and his beard — “See you on the radio, pal” — to Ted Koppel, who launched his career with Osgood more than 50 years ago at ABC. In iambic pentameter, no less, Koppel revealed Osgood’s real last name: Wood. (In 1963, as Koppel explained, another reporter “had it first, fair and square.” Osgood then went with his middle name.)
After a portrait of Osgood’s youth in Baltimore during and after World War II, it was left to “Sunday Morning’s” other correspondents to illuminate Osgood’s many contributions to the program over his run. Anthony Mason did a story on Osgood’s deep love of music (he’s an accomplished pianist). Martha Teichner reported on his “unbound poetic license,” or rather his habit of occasionally rendering stories or observations in iambic pentameter. Mo Rocca explored the genesis of the bow tie — the accessory long associated with Osgood. (Osgood explained, “People said I get away with wearing a bow tie ... I didn’t know it was against the law.” )
Lee Cowan got the best assignment: a trip to Osgood’s home in the south of France, where most of Osgood’s memories are stored, and where they are kept in the Steinway he bought long ago from Columbia Records. It’s the same one, he said, that Glenn Gould used to record “The Goldberg Variations.”
Like Osgood, Pauley brings a bond with viewers forged back in what now almost seems like the pre-dawn era of television news broadcasting, when there were only three major networks, and not all that much else. She followed Barbara Walters’ run at “Today,” and was to become, if not quite the template of the morning TV host, then the symbol of it, as a family-oriented person in real life who also assumed the central matriarchal role in the so-called “Today” “family.” Pauley was hugely popular during her run, later becoming a hugely sympathetic figure when NBC botched her “transition” — TV’s cold euphemism for “firing” — off the show.
She thrived post-“Today” as an author, MSNBC anchor and longtime “Dateline” anchor.
Pauley joined “Sunday Morning” as a correspondent and contributor in 2014. Rumors of her possible ascension as Osgood’s replacement wouldn’t begin until much later, but they did. Those were logical. In style and temperament, Pauley does represent a seamless transition, as someone whom viewers already know well and many no doubt still love and admire.
Osgood, 83, will continue his long-running radio commentaries, “The Osgood File.”