Susan Zirinsky is preparing to step down from her role at CBS News president, according to an individual with knowledge of the company.
Zirinsky has helmed the news organization for two years.
A representative for CBS declined to comment on Zirinsky’s plans. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, she will soon ink a production deal with the network’s parent company, ViacomCBS Inc.
There has been speculation about her possible departure, which only grew following reports last week that Kimberly Godwin will soon depart her role as CBS News’ executive vice president to become the president of ABC News.
Their exits would leave two top roles at CBS News vacant.
Zirinsky, a beloved figure at CBS News who started out as a production clerk in 1972, faced her fair share of fires to put out when she took over the network’s news division following the ouster of David Rhodes.
As TheWrap reported at the time, her top priority was turning around CBS News’ precipitous ratings slide over the previous year. Zirinsky played a key role in revamping “CBS Evening News,” which Norah O’Donnell took over in July of 2019. The ratings for “Evening News” took a nosedive in the first few months of O’Donnell’s takeover, with Nielsen data showing that the week of Oct. 14, 2019, she brought in 5.232 million viewers, 17% less than her predecessor, Jeff Glor, brought in a year prior. In the advertiser-coveted demographic of viewers from 25 to 54, her broadcast got 971,000 viewers — a 25% drop from Glor’s year-ago numbers.
Comparatively, last week, “Evening News” averaged 5 million total viewers, of whom 873,000 were in the key demo. It is still behind ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “Nightly News” and has, like most news shows, seen declines after the upheaval associated with the end of former president Donald Trump’s term and the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, in a chat with TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman before she took over the “Evening News” broadcasts, O’Donnell sang Zirinsky’s praises: “I would not have taken this job if Susan Zirinsky were not president.”
At the time, O’Donnell credited Zirinsky for moving swiftly to make big changes at the network, including promoting her from “CBS This Morning” to anchor and managing editor of the weekday evening newscast. “It’s a new era at CBS News,” O’Donnell said. “It’s time to move on and do the work.”