Newly appointed CBS News execs Jeff Fager and David Rhodes officially stepped into their new roles as chairman and president of the news division this week, and kicked off Tuesday by leading a town hall meeting for staffers.
Fager harked back to the division’s glory days in welcoming employees “to a new era at CBS News” in his opening remarks, one that will be modeled after 60 Minutes, the Sunday newsmagazine program that he remains executive producer of. Fager echoed comments made to B&C two weeks ago about Les Moonves telling him “I like what happens at 60 Minutes and I want the rest of CBS News to be like that” upon offering him the top news job.
“We have brought a great old institution up to date and it is thriving – while adhering to the values taught to us by Don Hewitt who learned them from Fred Friendly. That’s more than 60 years of CBS News experience passed down through two people. How lucky are we. Values and news judgments that go into every Sunday night’s broadcast,” Fager said.
He also announced that Larry Doyle, a longtime producer who was laid off last year, is returning to CBS News full-time as of today; a move that Fager said “should tell you a lot about this new era at CBS news and about our priorities.”
Rhodes, who comes to CBS from Bloomberg TV, outlined that he will be making hard news a priority.
“When I got here, I saw some numbers for what we’ve committed to coverage of major events this year,” he said. “Some numbers for coverage of Gabby Giffords, of Egypt, of the upcoming royal wedding. Now, I know there’s a lot of audience interest in Prince William getting married. But I’m not convinced that the priorities that were in these figures are right. So, I’ve asked that we spend less on London and more on stories like Tucson and Cairo.”
“CBS News wins when we put on something that’s of uniquely high quality,” he added. “That’s what’s so successful about the programs here that are number one–programs that are among the most successful in television history. Of the future, Rhodes said “We’ll extend that success and we’ll be competitive every time we go on the air or any other platform.”
Whether that future is one that includes keeping Katie Couric at the Evening News remains to be seen.