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ViacomCBS has named Neeraj Khemlani and Wendy McMahon co-heads of CBS News and the CBS Television Stations.
Khemlani, currently an executive vp at Hearst Newspapers, and a former producer for the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes, will join the company in May. McMahon was most recently head of the ABC stations group. Both executives will report to CBS chief George Cheeks and will “partner on managing all aspects of the division,” per CBS.
The appointments come with a new structure at the company that combines the CBS local stations group and CBS News into one business unit. The new unit will include CBS News, the 28 CBS-owned TV stations, CBSN, the local CBSN services, and CBS News Digital.
“This is an opportunity to create a news and information structure that positions CBS for the future,” said Cheeks in a statement. “It speaks to our ability to scale newsgathering, production, technical and operational resources to serve both national and local, linear and digital, with the agility to deliver trusted information to every platform. Wendy and Neeraj have the leadership background and cross-platform accomplishments that cover all these important areas, and they share our commitment for supporting superior journalism, optimal delivery platforms and the strongest of organizational cultures.”
With Khemlani and McMahon’s appointments, CBS News president Susan Zirinsky will step aside at the broadcast news division.
Zirinsky, a CBS News lifer who was tapped to lead the venerable TV news organization in 2019, is in talks “for a significant role at a new CBS News Content Studio to be launched later this year.”
When Zirinsky took over as president of CBS News, she quoted from from the script read by anchor Walter Cronkite the evening President Nixon resigned in 1974. She was working at the network’s Washington D.C. bureau at the time, and fished the script out of the trash. She told The Hollywood Reporter at the time that it was one of her “prized possessions.”
“Z has an incredible legacy of making CBS News stronger in every role she served over almost five decades, including meaningful accomplishments as its president,” added Cheeks of Zirinsky’s move. “Z took the reins in March 2019 at a moment of turmoil in the division, creating stability and renewing passion for the brand internally and externally.
Zirinsky’s departure continues a tumultuous few years atop the major TV news divisions. Earlier this week, one of Zirinsky’s top CBS deputies, Kim Godwin, left to become president of ABC News.
CNN, meanwhile, is expected to begin searching for a new leader in the coming months with president Jeff Zucker only committed to stay through the end of 2021.
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