In what is probably its biggest "get," Colin Powell endorsed President Obama for a second time on "CBS This Morning" last fall. King's close ties to Winfrey have also come in handy: In January the daytime queen confirmed on "CBS This Morning" that Lance Armstrong had confessed to doping during their much-hyped interview.
Less tangibly but no less critically, "CBS This Morning" has also avoided becoming what Licht calls "a cult of personality" program — one where the hosts become the story. "That's why you wouldn't see a 'Charlie-and-Gayle-try-this' segment," he says.
Not that chemistry isn't important: In July, Hill was quietly replaced by White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell, a tenacious but cool-headed interviewer who has burnished the show's hard-news credentials.
Gathered in the show's glass-walled green room after the morning broadcast, the three co-hosts and senior correspondent John Miller share an easy but not overly cozy rapport.
Asked to describe how the unlikely trio of King, O'Donnell and Rose balance one another out on air, Miller offers this assessment: "Charlie always asks the questions that nobody else would have thought of. Norah probes in to make sure the answer they gave is actually true, and then Gayle asks the question that every viewer sitting back wanted to know."
Then there's Miller himself, an avuncular presence who functions as the show's in-house expert on law enforcement and national security issues. Rhodes describes him as a "Zelig-like figure," and he's not that far off: A veteran television journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1998, Miller has also worked for the LAPD, the NYPD, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"It's invaluable to have someone who's been in the room and understands what the story is about," says Rose.
Of course, the first year has not been without its hiccups or embarrassments — most notably, a three-minute report on Manti Te'o and his (later-found-to-be-non-existent) girlfriend. Nor does "CBS This Morning" entirely shy away from the human interest, celebrity-driven stories that remain the bread and butter of morning television, especially once King joins the broadcast in the 8 a.m. hour.
"We don't feel that we're above any story," she says. "I think we can always figure out a way to tell a story that is relatable and entertaining while keeping our dignity intact. It doesn't have to turn into silly school."
On softer stories, the show makes its editorial priorities clear in small but telling ways: Instead of sending on-air talent to London to cover the royal pregnancy, as both "Today" and "GMA" did in December, "CBS This Morning" relied on local correspondents.
"When we say that we're different, we really can back that up," says King, rattling off a list she's saved on her smartphone: While other shows were covering "Jersey Shore" and Lauren Scruggs, a pretty blond blogger who became a media sensation after she was maimed by an airplane propeller, they were reporting on the freshman class in Congress and the fallout from Hurricane Sandy. (King leaves out what may be the most egregious example: "Today's" decision to cut away from the moment of silence at Ground Zero on 9/11 for an interview with Kris Jenner about her recently upgraded breast implants.)
But even a diminished "Today" outpaces "CBS This Morning" by about 2 million viewers a day, which means Licht — who calls the show's third-place status "unacceptable" — has his work cut out for him.
"If you compromise your core values to chase ratings, then it may be a short-term sugar high but ultimately you will not succeed," he says.
In other words, don't expect Charlie Rose to get that tattoo any time soon.