Exiting CBS News president: ‘Feels like I righted the ship’
With her tenure as the first female CBS News president nearly over, Susan Zirinsky is telling The New York Times that she has achieved what she hoped to achieve.
“What I feel like I’ve achieved in these two years is something that for me, philosophically, journalistically, feels like I righted the ship,” Zirinsky told the Times in an interview published Sunday.
News leaked last Tuesday that Zirinsky was stepping down from the role to take a production job inside CBS.
The network confirmed the news last Thursday, announcing it was merging CBS News with the division that houses its local television stations and other assets to form a new still unnamed division.
Zirinsky will remain president of CBS News until new leaders — Wendy McMahon, formerly president of ABC’s Owned Television Stations Group, and Neeraj Khemlani, a Hearst Newspapers executive — take over in May.
After that, the company announced, Zirinsky will move to a production role in a deal with the CBS’s parent company ViacomCBS.
“This is setting us up for the future,” she told the Times. “I don’t look in the rear view mirror. I look forward.”
Zirinsky took over from David Rhodes in 2019 when CBS News was dealing with the fallout from several sexual harassment scandals involving senior executives like Les Moonves, who has denied the allegations, and members of the other programs such as “60 Minutes.”
“The morale was at an all-time low, the shows were messy,” Zirinsky told the Times before explaining the personal toll of the job.
“I feel I have given my entire soul into rebuilding this organization,” she said.
One of the first major changes Zirinsky made was moving “CBS Evening News” to Washington, D.C., in 2019.
But despite her efforts, the show has not improved its standing in the ratings race during her tenure and has continued to lose to both ABC and NBC.
“CBS Evening News” continues to place third in ratings after “ABC World News Tonight” and “NBC Nightly News.”
CBS’s “Face the Nation,” however, traded places with NBC’s “Meet the Press” to become the top-rated Sunday morning political news show in 2020.