CBS News’ John Dickerson Is Eager to Take on the Network’s Streaming Expansion | Exclusive

“We’ve had a great time telling the news the way we want to tell it and we’re thrilled to get more time to do that,” the anchor tells TheWrap

CBS News John Dickerson
Gail Schulman/CBS News

CBS News’ John Dickerson credits the network’s streaming service with allowing him to anchor a “broadcast that spans a huge range.” Plus, the network is significantly expanding and investing further into the platform, and him in particular. 

Chief political analyst and senior national correspondent Dickerson is being positioned as the centerpiece of the network’s new streaming expansion, in a broad restructuring that doubles the amount of live programming on the service. 

“We’ve had a great time telling the news the way we want to tell it and we’re thrilled to get more time to do that,” Dickerson told TheWrap, “to keep experimenting, following our curiosity and building on the tools we’ve created over the last year and a half.” 

The streaming program, “Primetime With John Dickerson,” which celebrated its first anniversary in September, will be renamed to “The Daily Report With John Dickerson,” airing Monday through Thursday from 6-7 p.m. ET. The show will expand later this spring to a 90-minute timeslot, the network announced on Tuesday. 

Dickerson joined CBS News as an analyst and contributor in 2009. Over the years, he has served in many roles for the network — including as political director, moderator of “Face the Nation,” chief Washington correspondent, presidential debate moderator, “60 Minutes” contributor and cohost of “CBS This Morning.” 

However, Dickerson did not get his start in TV news. He began his career at Time magazine covering economics and politics before moving to Slate, becoming the magazine’s chief political correspondent. 

Dickerson’s background in print means he’s “probably learning as much as anybody,” though he now feels he has the “freedom to try to cover the news in a different way, with a talented young staff, which is really a joy.”

In tandem with the expansion, the streaming service is also getting a new name, CBS News 24/7, which is also the title of a program launching in June. Other programming like “America Decides” will be expanded to a one-hour timeslot, while new shows including “CBS News Confirmed” will debut this spring. 

“CBS News 24/7 is a decidedly ambitious evolution of our streaming efforts,” president and CEO of CBS News and Stations and CBS Media Ventures Wendy McMahon said in a statement on Tuesday. 

CBS News president Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews added that the expansion of Dickerson’s show is just one way in which “we are driving the next generation of viewers to this high-quality reporting that sets CBS News apart.”

In 2023, CBS News’ service was streamed for more than 21.3 billion minutes across national and local levels. The network’s streaming offerings are available on more than 30 platforms for free, as well as on CBSNews.com and Paramount+. 

“We try to have a view of the world that is human and joyful and full of wonder because we have the scope of the CBS News organization, but also streaming just allows access to a lot more,” Dickerson told TheWrap. 

The CBS News anchor spoke to TheWrap in depth about the network’s streaming efforts and how he is approaching coverage during a presidential election year. 

What is your outlook for CBS News for the next few years as the broadcast news industry grapples with adapting to the necessity of the streaming environment? 

As an early adopter of streaming or an early participant in the streaming world, I think that puts CBS in good shape. I certainly know in the conversations I’ve had over the years, the commitment and interest in streaming has always been there. It’s not something that they’re just discovering. 

I found my last year to be incredibly rewarding in the sense that a lot of times the things that I say and that we’re trying to do with our show, people in the institution say yes. That’s great, but then they also back it up. I felt totally backed by all my colleagues here, both the bosses above and those of us who work on the team. There is a commitment to trying to tell stories and report the news the way we’re trying to and streaming allows some of that. 

We can have a broadcast that spans a huge range and I think streaming has contributed to allowing that. That’s been amazing because you can truly look at the world and say, “What are those different topics that I want to talk about?” and you can get experts to come talk to you. We try to have a view of the world that is human and joyful and full of wonder, because we have the scope of the CBS News organization but also streaming just allows access to a lot more. As serious and complicated the world is, we also try to, and I think we’ve been successful in the show over the last year, in trying to approach the world with a sense of curiosity and wonder about the entire operation of the world, not just whatever happens to be blowing up on that particular day, either metaphorically or literally. 

Can you speak to what you have accomplished this last year and what you’re looking forward to in terms of content for the show? 

I think what we accomplished was Trump was trying to put into practice some ideas that are tricky to try and build a show around while being attentive to the attention of our audience. It’s not just explaining that something happened. But is what we’re explaining, is our choice to do this story worth the time and attention to the people who are watching. We’re not trying to just keep them watching by being sensational or only talking about political fights because that keeps people glued. But we want to be able to say this is really worth it for somebody to expend their attention. 

That’s been incredibly rewarding. It allows us to cover incredibly important things that are happening in our world, from the U.S. relationship with China, to the rise of artificial intelligence, to the extreme situation in U.S. education, to the post-pandemic changes in the workplace, in the labor force, in the economy, in the way we think about meaning in our lives as Americans and citizens of the world. These are all things that are basically driven by what we find interesting and then what we think people will find interesting because we think it is important enough to ask them for their attention.

So to try to run a show like that is exciting. We’ve been able to do that and we’ve gotten better at it. Working with the team we have here, all of whom are really eager to learn and get better and think about telling news in ways that are compelling, but also important. That’s been an incredibly fun project every day to wake up and try to go, “OK, how do we grab the world, figure out what’s the most important, explain it to people so they have a better sense of understanding and control of their world?” They don’t leave a news broadcast agitated and freaked out. 

As we gear up for what is arguably one of the most unusual presidential elections in American history, what is your approach to best informing your audience? 

I think my approach to informing the audience is one that I’ve developed over all my years covering politics. I’ve tried in various ways in my different jobs, most notably “Face the Nation,” to cover the things that are important to the American people, not the issues that candidates are necessarily talking about. Presidential elections really cover and look for candidates with a whole different set of skills than the ones of an actual president in office. So the goal is really to look at issues and say, “We’re not going to talk about the issues the way the candidates want to talk about them because obviously, they want to talk about the issues in a way that makes them look the best.” 

We want to talk about the issues in terms of the real questions that have to be answered, the real complexities, the real puzzles, that have to be solved because only those things will be solved. And if you would like somebody to solve them, who knows how to solve them, or at least has an idea about them. Is anything ever going to get done? And then to look at the office of the presidency as it exists, by looking at what a president really has to face. Not at the very strange sets of questions that come up in presidential candidate campaigns the way we run them. 

How do you feel about where the TV journalism industry is at today? Are you worried at all about dwindling audiences as a result of cord-cutting? 

Yes, it concerns me about the future of TV journalism and the future of journalism in general. And in fact, the future of our ability as a country and as a world to tackle complex problems. For democracy to work, you need to have informed participants. Just to be a good human being, you have to have some depth and richness of your understanding of things and a constant diet of frantic and calamitous is a lot of what you get. 

We don’t just compete now with other cable networks or broadcast networks, we compete for people’s attention across everything — entertainment, social media. So it’s no longer that people sit down for the news. Well, some people do and they certainly do for our show. It’s not like 24 million people are sitting down at 6:30 to watch Walter Cronkite. That fight for attention, that fight for people’s concern is why I talk about attention so much and about being careful with it because I worry about the general shredding of people’s ability to sit down and think about what’s happening in the world and get a handle on it. There are so many distractions and some of those distractions are coming from the very people who have been entrusted with reducing distractions and increasing information. 

But I am also heartened by the number of people who write in about what we do and are enthusiastic and grateful for what we try to do, which is the counterbalance to that world. 

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

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