CBS News President Prepares Exit as Broadcast News Is in Flux
The first woman to run CBS News, Susan Zirinsky, is expected to announce that she may be stepping down from the presidency of the network’s news division earlier this week, a person aware of the plan said Tuesday.
Ms. Zirinsky, 69, was appointed in January 2019 to repair a battered ship. At the time, CBS faced several key executive departures and unsavory revelations about its news department as broader accounting for workplace misconduct disrupted the media industry.
CBS declined to comment. Ms. Zirinsky is expected to sign a production contract with the network’s parent company, ViacomCBS, to work on broadcast, cable and streaming programs, according to the person who knows the details of her departure.
ABC News will also take on a new leader. Its former president, James Goldston, announced his departure in January. ABC and its parent company Disney are in advanced talks with Kimberly Godwin, a CBS News executive, about taking over the news division, two people with knowledge of the matter said. ABC declined to comment.
Several news organizations have seen leadership changes as business leaders face a drastically different news environment following the presidency of Donald J. Trump. Jeff Zucker announced in February that he would step down as president of CNN by the end of the year. Rashida Jones recently replaced Phil Griffin as head of MSNBC.
Ms. Zirinsky will remain President of CBS News until her successor begins. The Wall Street Journal previously reported on her role change. NBC previously covered Ms. Godwin’s conversations with ABC.
Ms. Zirinsky was a CBS veteran for more than four decades, taking over the news department when she was ravaged by the layoffs of CEO Leslie Moonves and 60 Minutes’ top producer Jeff Fager. She described her mission as “bringing this organization together both functionally and spiritually”.
Although she has long viewed herself as a news producer rather than a talented executive, Ms. Zirinsky told the New York Times two years ago, “I felt at this moment in my life and career that this was the time to take a step make up. “
In her two years on the job, she redesigned “CBS This Morning” by signing a new contract with star anchor Gayle King, bringing them together with co-anchors Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil. Ms. Zirinsky also moved the “CBS Evening News” to Washington and announced Norah O’Donnell as anchor.
Despite the moves, CBS got stuck in third place on the morning news and at 6:30 p.m. In the past few months, the two CBS shows have come closer to competition, and Ms. O’Donnell landed President Biden’s first post-inaugural interview with a broadcast news division. News broadcasts have lost viewers since the end of the Trump presidency.
While Ms. Zirinsky was busy making changes (she also named new top producers on “60 Minutes” and “CBS This Morning”), she wasn’t shy about expressing frustrations with the job. She has often told confidants that she wanted to return to the part of broadcast journalism that was her first love: producing.