CBS News president steps down, to be replaced by veteran producer

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CBS said Sunday that 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 is being replaced by veteran producer Susan Zirinsky.

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 in March. After leaving, Rhodes will 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.

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.

As a news producer, Zirinsky has had a hand in dozens of major stories over the past four decades, perhaps most memorably in a documentary account of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as seen from the point of view of French filmmakers who were nearby making a documentary about firefighters that day.

She’s also known - as a character - to a generation of moviegoers. She was the model for the hard-charging news producer portrayed by Holly Hunter in the 1987 movie, “Broadcast News.”

“No broadcast news producer is more highly respected and admired than Susan Zirinsky,” Ianniello said. “She is an exceptional leader, a creative force, and an outstanding and proven journalist.”

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