Cinderella has been found, and she is plain Jane Clayson.
After months of searching, CBS's "Operation Glass Slipper" is over and the knights of the news division will announce Tuesday that Clayson--a little-known correspondent from the Magic Kingdom of Disney--has been anointed the on-air mate for Bryant Gumbel at the new morning program "Early Show."
At least this is the word from minions intimately familiar with the planned announcement, though representatives of the CBS News fiefdom were officially mum yesterday, under threat of severe penalty.
It had been a harrowing quest for the knights of the News. The handsome and charming CBS News president Andrew Heyward, the handsome and charming CBS Television CEO Leslie Moonves, and the not-as-handsome but extremely charming "Early Show" executive producer Steve Friedman had scoured the kingdom to find just the right woman who will sit by Gumbel's side when he takes the throne on Nov. 1.
Many obstacles had been put in their path. First, some scheming agents, representing industry stepsisters, had floated their clients' names in the press, in hopes Prince Gumbel would take notice and they would collect their 10 percent.
Then, the fairy godmother over at N.S. Bienstock (pronounced Beanstalk and I'm not making this up)--the agency that represents Clayson--apparently didn't get the coach-and-footmen-and- ball-gown thing down quite right, because the men at CBS were not sufficiently dazzled and only offered her the job of newsreader on "Early Show" and $350,000 a year.
Then, to the surprise of everyone, ABC, the network within the Magic Kingdom of Disney, met and bettered CBS's offer, proposing she become backup newsreader on "Good Morning America," and have a high profile on prime-time newsmagazine "20/20."
And Clayson, a sensible girl in her thirties, decided that this was not such a bad offer for an L.A.-based correspondent who not so long ago had been working for ABC's affiliate news service NewsOne, and she decided to stay. But she wisely got it in writing that if ever CBS News realized its mistake and offered her the co-anchor crown, ABC News would release her from her obligation to them. They made that promise, but only if an offer was presented by Sept. 7; after that, no matter what might be offered, she would be bound to ABC for the duration of her new contract.
With that kind of deadline hanging over their heads, the knights at CBS were suddenly dazzled by Clayson and they decided that the glass slipper more perfectly fit her foot than any of the more than 100 people that Friedman says they'd talked to.
And so, they lived happily ever after. The end.
CAPTION: Jane Clayson will be Bryant Gumbel's on-air mate for "Early Show."