Schieffer Discusses Face The Nation's Expansion to One Hour
CBS News' Face The Nation will be expanding from 30 minutes to an hour beginning in April, host Bob Schieffer announced on Sunday. In an interview with Hotline On Call on Tuesday, Schieffer said that CBS may begin test driving the format beginning as soon as January.
Schieffer will be doing double duty during the upcoming presidential coming primary and caucus season. He'll be working with White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell in Iowa. Face the Nation will be broadcasting on location in New Hampshire on the Sunday before the Jan. 10 primary, where the program may be an hour long.
The show has improved its ratings over the past year, often running a close second to NBC's Meet The Press. Last week, Face the Nation tied Meet The Press in ratings and had a larger total audience, but Meet the Press is twice as long in its current format and re-airs episodes during the afternoon, so it's not a perfect apples to apples comparison.
Schieffer noted that Meet the Press was third in the ratings battle before becoming an hour long program in 1992 and it was "a matter of months before" that show became number one. He's hoping the expansion to an hour will help the show, which he has hosted since 1991.
In recent months, CBS News has made a concerted effort to focus more heavily on hard news, shifting the focus of its morning and evening news broadcasts.
"[CBS News Chairman] Jeff Fager and [CBS News President] David Rhodes have really tried to bring back CBS to do what CBS does best, Schieffer said. "What we've always done best is when we concentrated on the news and the hard news."
Fager and Rhodes made a promise to Schieffer, the Sunday show host says. "They said to me, 'If you can get your numbers up, just a little more than where they are now, we can talk about this, we think this is doable; damned if they aren't men of their word."
The GOP presidential debates have helped Face the Nation's ratings. And the program has regularly featured 2012 presidential candidates.
"We'll have more guests. We'll spend more time with roundtables," Schieffer said, adding that CBS political director John Dickerson, O'Donnell and the New York Times' David Sanger are expected to be roundtable regulars on the revamped one hour program. The show will also feature more on-location reporting.
"We made a decision at the beginning of this race. We were just going to cover this campaign," Schieffer said. "We think these programs are about American politics. With the campaign coming on we saw that as our number one story. It really had to be a big story to move us off that."
Face the Nation will continue to cover non-political breaking news events like the earthquake in Japan and the uprising in Egypt, but Schieffer cautioned, "We're about American politics. If you want to find out what's going on in American politics, this is where you'd go. ... We're not going to get off on any esoteric topics. We just stick to the meat and potatoes topics."
Editor's Note: National Journal and CBS News have been partners for 2012 presidential election coverage.