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O'Donnell, National Journal, Pelley: CBS on the rise

CBS Thursday named Norah O'Donnell its chief White House correspondent in a move that signals how committed the new managers are to shaking their newsroom out of the Katie Couric era doldrums.

Yesterday's announcement of CBS News partnering with National Journal to cover the 2012 election already vaulted CBS News from the ranks of also-rans in mid-term 2010 to one of the the news operations to watch the next 18 months for political news.

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But you connect the dots of Scott Pelley's promotion to the anchor desk, the partnership with National Journal, and now O'Donnell leading the network's White House coverage, and you have a news division on the rise -- big time. This is exciting to watch after more than four years of non-competition for the "Early Show" and "Evening News." ("Face the Nation" and especially "60 Minutes" have long been winners -- the latter, in fact, remains the most successful show in the history of TV.)

But the political coverage in 2010 -- and most of 2008 except for a couple of Couric interviews -- was sleep-inducing. It was old, slow, self-important and often out of it. Always, it seemed a step or two behind CNN, ABC, NBC and even Fox News. But I guarantee that won't be the case with National Journal reporters and editors covering the campaign trail. The multi-platform potential for this marriage is through the roof when you think of first-rate print reporters matched up with the superb video production capabilities of CBS News.

Kudos to CBS News chairman Jeff Fager and News president David Rhodes for shaking this news shop up -- making such bold and exciting moves in attracting, partnering with and promoting quality journalists.

I am serious, CBS News just moved up from the irrelevant bottom to near the must-see top of the channels I will turn to for breaking news and ongoing political coverage during this election season. You have to admire how decisively Rhodes and Fager have moved since deciding the Couric era was over.

Chip Reid, who had been chief White House correspondent, will become a national correspondent for CBS News.

For the moment, let's not even think about what losing O'Donnell might say about the declining relevance of MSNBC as a source of information and analysis in the political season that is now moving into a higher gear. She did, after all, play a significant role in 2008 on the channel.

Here's the press release from CBS News:

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