An 'Early' end for Ross

CBS drops sr. exec producer

Shelley Ross was dropped Thursday as senior executive producer at CBS' "The Early Show" after only six months on the job.

The controversial ABC News veteran, who turned around "Good Morning America," didn't have the time to do the same at the perennially third-place "Early." Rumors of staffer strife and the resignations of as many as 21 "Early" workers plagued Ross during her tenure, and tales of her behind-the-scenes tirades had made the New York Post's Page Six at least twice, most recently Thursday.

"Early" has seen its share of changes in the past year, both behind the camera and in front of it. Two co-anchors, Rene Syler and Hannah Storm, have left, and Ross replaced two well-regarded executives, Steve Friedman and Michael Bass, who had improved the ratings during their time.

Taking over temporarily will be Rick Kaplan, executive producer of "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric." Kaplan will remain in that job, though he'll devote the majority of his time immediately to "Early," beginning with a 3:15 a.m. wake-up call this morning.

"Rick has built an exceptionally strong senior team there, and the broadcast will be in very capable hands until he returns full time to the 'Evening News,' " CBS News/ Sports president Sean McManus said Thursday. He declined a request for an interview.

McManus and Kaplan met with "Early" staff Thursday afternoon to discuss the show and its future. Kaplan told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday that the show is important and that it is key to continue its recent ratings successes.

"It's built up some great momentum," Kaplan said. "The show is looking better. Nobody wants the show to slow down or lose the energy that it's built up."

Ross joined CBS News in September after the network removed the leadership team of vp morning broadcasts Friedman and senior executive producer Bass. The two had strengthened the show's position in a time period dominated by NBC's "Today" — where both Bass and Friedman once worked — as well as ABC's "Good Morning America." CBS officials acknowledged the ratings gains but said they wanted to take the show in a different direction, which led them to Ross.