CBS News President Prepares Exit as Broadcast News Is in Flux
Susan Zirinsky is departing, while ABC News is said to be close to hiring a new leader, at a time of reorganization in television news in the post-Trump era.
The first woman to lead CBS News, Susan Zirinsky, is expected to announce that she is stepping down from the presidency of the network’s news division, possibly as soon as this week, a person with knowledge of the plan said on Tuesday.
Ms. Zirinsky, 69, was appointed in January 2019 to right a battered ship. At the time, CBS was confronting several key executive departures and unsavory revelations about its news division as a wider reckoning on workplace misconduct roiled the media industry.
CBS declined to comment. Ms. Zirinsky is expected to sign a production deal with the network’s parent company, ViacomCBS, to work on broadcast, cable and streaming programs, according to the person with knowledge of the details of her departure.
ABC News is also set to take on a new leader. Its previous president, James Goldston, announced his departure in January. ABC and its parent company, Disney, are in advanced discussions 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 undergone leadership changes as executives confront a drastically different news environment in the aftermath of Donald J. Trump’s presidency. Jeff Zucker announced in February that he will step down as CNN’s president by the end of the year. Rashida Jones recently replaced Phil Griffin as the head of MSNBC.
Ms. Zirinsky will stay on as CBS News president until her successor begins. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on her changing role.
A veteran of CBS for more than four decades, Ms. Zirinsky took over the news division as it was reeling from the firings of the company’s chief executive, Leslie Moonves, and of the top “60 Minutes” producer, Jeff Fager. She described her mission as “bringing this organization together both functionally and spiritually.”
Though she has long seen herself as a news producer, and not as a talent-wrangling executive, Ms. Zirinsky told The New York Times two years ago, “I felt at this moment in my life and my career this was the time to step up.”
In her two years on the job, she revamped “CBS This Morning” by signing the star anchor Gayle King to a new contract and pairing her with the co-anchors Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil. Ms. Zirinsky also moved the “CBS Evening News” to Washington, and announced Norah O’Donnell as its anchor.
Even with the moves, CBS remained stuck in third place in the morning news hours and at 6:30 p.m. In recent months, the two CBS shows have inched closer to the competition, and Ms. O’Donnell landed President Biden’s first postinaugural interview with a broadcast news division. News shows have lost viewers since the Trump presidency ended.
While Ms. Zirinsky has been busy making changes (she also appointed new top producers at “60 Minutes” and “CBS This Morning”), she has not been shy about voicing her frustrations with the job. She has frequently told confidants that she wanted to return to the part of broadcast journalism that was her first love: producing.