It's not very often that a talking head gives up a lofty Sunday morning network platform to join the gritty nighttime cable wars.
But Gloria Borger is doing just that, relinquishing her role on CBS's "Face the Nation" to co-anchor the CNBC program "Capital Report," the only show on the business network that will be based in Washington.
Combined with Cokie Roberts's decision to step down at ABC's "This Week," Borger's move will leave the Sunday talk shows an all-male preserve.
"I decided this kind of opportunity doesn't come along every day," Borger said yesterday. "I think it's going to be a blast."
Borger will share anchoring duties on the Tuesday-through-Friday show with Alan Murray, the former Washington bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, who was lured by CNBC last year to run its bureau here. Both moves are part of an effort by CNBC to expand its presence in the capital at a time of declining ratings for business news.
Why give up a "Face the Nation" audience of about 2.5 million for a struggling cable show that has averaged 154,000 viewers since July?
"I'm not about eyeballs," Borger said. "This is about a new professional challenge for me. . . . It's a wonderful way to connect the dots between power and politics and economics and inside Washington."
"Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer has only kind words for Borger, who has joined him in questioning Cabinet members, candidates and lawmakers since 1997. "She's just been terrific and played a big part in helping us get to where we are," he said. "I'm really going to miss her. But sometimes little birds have to spread their wings and fly. I support her all the way. She's one of my best friends."
Schieffer said he expects that Borger will eventually be replaced, but that for now he will use a rotating group of correspondents, such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman when the subject is foreign policy. "Face the Nation," the only half-hour show among the Sunday entries, has been running neck and neck with "This Week" for second place behind the ratings leader, NBC's "Meet the Press."
"It's very hard to leave CBS," Borger said. "I've loved every minute of it there. I'm very grateful to Bob and Carin Pratt," the "Face the Nation" producer. "You learn so much just sitting next to Bob every week."
Borger, who occasionally did pieces for "60 Minutes II," will also be a special correspondent for some NBC News shows, although details haven't been worked out.
After talking it over with Mort Zuckerman, owner of U.S. News & World Report, Borger will continue writing her biweekly political column for the magazine. She'll also remain as a regular on PBS's "Washington Week."
The previous "Capital Report" co-anchor, Tyler Mathisen, has been shifted to a new 2 p.m. program called "Open Exchange." "Capital Report" had been airing three nights a week but is expected to take over the Friday slot of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board roundtable, which appears to be kaput.
The 9 p.m. time slot is one of the most competitive in cable. Borger and Murray will be taking on such rivals as Fox's "Hannity & Colmes," CNN's "Larry King Live" and MSNBC's "Hardball."
Borger said she reached her decision after talking with NBC News President Neal Shapiro, CNBC President Pamela Thomas-Graham and many hours chewing the fat with Murray, an old acquaintance who had consulted her about his own leap from print to television.
"They didn't sweep me off my feet or anything," Borger said. "I'm too old to be swept off my feet."