CBS News president steps down, replaced by veteran producer


NEW YORK (AP) – CBS says its news division president, David Rhodes, is stepping down following a troubled year that saw morning anchor Charlie Rose and the top executive at “60 Minutes” lose their jobs following misconduct reports and ratings issues at its top shows.

Veteran news producer Susan Zirinsky, who started work at CBS in the Washington bureau as a 20-year-old in the early 1970s and is currently the executive producer at “48 Hours,” will take over as news president.

“It’s a very humbling and daunting role,” said Zirinsky, 66, in an interview Sunday. “When you’ve been working someplace for 40 years, it’s a moment.”

Rhodes will stay on his job until March 1 and continue to work as an adviser to CBS News, said interim CBS Corp. leader Joseph Ianniello.

In a memo to his staff, Rhodes said Sunday that “the new year is a time for renewal, for new goals. The world we cover is changing, how we cover it is changing – and it’s the right time for me to make a change too.”

Rhodes came to CBS News from Fox News Channel and, together with former CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, saw success in emphasizing a newsier approach than its rivals. The launch of “CBS This Morning” with Rose, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell was a particular success.

But last fall, Rose was abruptly fired following reports of improper behavior involving female staffers at CBS News. The show’s ratings have taken a tumble since then, and that show’s executive producer recently exited.

Rhodes last fall also had to oust his former partner, Fager, who had returned to his original job as executive producer of “60 Minutes.” Fager had sent a message regarded as threatening to a CBS reporter who was working on a story about alleged bad behavior at the show and by Fager.

“It was a cultural shift in the country and CBS had a piece of it, no doubt about it,” Zirinsky said. “But we’ve taken it head-on.”

Rhodes’ decision to appoint Jeff Glor as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” has not succeeded in the ratings.

Besides finding a new leader at “CBS This Morning,” Zirinsky will be charged with appointing a new executive producer at “60 Minutes,” television’s most popular and influential news program. Bill Owens has been the interim leader and he was considered a top candidate for the job, along with Zirinsky.

Rhodes’ decision to appoint Jeff Glor as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” has not succeeded in the ratings.

The CBS Network itself has faced tumult with the ouster of its Les Moonves late last year due to sexual misconduct allegations against him.