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The Voices of the Evening News

On January 4, 2010 —  the first Monday of the new decade — Morgan Freeman became the voice of the CBS Evening News. The appointment of Mr. Freeman officially ushered in a new era of "familiar" and "reliable" names opening national newscasts. As observed by TV Newser, all three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) now use a celebrity to commence their evening news programs. Because we do a lot of auditory analysis around here, we've compiled each introduction for your listening and viewing enjoyment. So lean back on that swivel chair (but not too far, please), crank those speakers and press play — then let us know, which do you like best?

First up, The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. The Nightly News was the first evening news program to enlist a celebrity —  Michael Douglas — to announce their openings. Mr Douglas' tenure began on December 17, 2007, replacing the great Howard Reig, who was the program's voice for decades. 

I've always liked NBC's use of dramatic build in their openings. If you listen, you can hear strings playing underneath Mr. Williams' reading — slowly building and finally resolving with horns, right when Mr Douglas' calming voice kicks in. Also notice that NBC announces the location of each show. This one is finds Mr. Williams "reporting tonight from Washington."

Two years later, when Diane Sawyer became anchor of ABC'S World News (this past December), the network chose to update their opening sequence, selecting Mike Rowe from Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs as announcer. Mr. Rowe replaced Bill Rice who handled the reading for 45 years. No stranger to the voiceover, Mr. Rowe can also be heard narrating Discovery's American ChopperAmerican Hot RodDeadliest Catch (my favorite), Wild Pacific, and Ghost Lab, as well as on Animal Planet, Syfy and ESPN

There's a nice build in ABC's intro as well. And the World News has horns — lots of 'em. In this opening, Mr. Rowe speaks with more of a stoic tone than Mr. Douglas, whose voice conveys a touch of "it's gonna be all right" attitude (not such a bad thing these days). Also notice that ABC chooses not to announce the location of their newscast. That's OK though because they have "global resources." 

Finally, Mr. Freeman debuted as the voice of CBS Evening News with Katie Couric this week. His reading replaces this one recorded by Walter Cronkite (big shoes to fill) who passed away early this year. 

Nice drums and horns on this opening, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm crazy about Mr. Freeman's reading. I like that he announces the location — "from CBS world headquarters in New York," but his voice seems a little shaky on the read. I'll give Mr. Freeman the benefit of the doubt though — it's not easy to replace Mr. Cronkite's iconic voice — and give him some time to get his voice legs. 

Of course ABC, CBS and NBC all follow the lead of CNN, who has used James Earl Jones to read their station ID — “This is CNN” — since 1990. According to a 2005 segment on Paula Zahn Now, at that time, the network was celebrating its 10th anniversary and was looking for a “strong, recognizable voice of authority.” Mr. Jones’ was the first person that came to mind. He’s been the voice of the network ever since. 

You can't go wrong with Mr. Jones' reading. Simple, powerful, recognizable — at this point it's a classic. 

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Reader Comments (1)

I don't like the slurring together of Mike Douglas' This is. Also his voice is not being directed right. he should use a little more balls in that delivery, too everyman for my money :P

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrob solis

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