With eyes on the future, CBS News president David Rhodes & chairman Jeff Fager remind staffers of CBS News glory days

By Chris Ariens 

Historic Studio 45 at the CBS Broadcast Center, once home to the soap opera “Guiding Light,” saw the beginning of a new era at CBS News today, as David Rhodes and Jeff Fager, the new president and chairman of the news division led a town hall meeting for employees.

Fager, who retains his post as Executive Producer of “60 Minutes,” used the broadcast as a jumping off point for the town hall — with his marching orders clear. Fager remarked that CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves told him, “I like what happens at ’60 minutes’ and I want the rest of CBS News to be like that.”

“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,” said Fager, adding, “How lucky are we.”

One of Fager’s first orders of business was to announce that a longtime CBS News employee, laid off a year ago, would be returning.

“We have always been a reporter’s shop, where everybody is a reporter from the people who answer the phones to the people who anchor our broadcasts. With that in mind we are making an announcement today that should tell you a lot about this new era at CBS news and about our priorities. As of today – Larry Doyle is returning to CBS News fulltime.” Doyle, who Dan Rather called “one of the all-time greats,” and “the soul of the place” will return to the producer fold at CBS News’ Washington bureau.

Rhodes, 37, who joins CBS News from Bloomberg TV, told employees, “We’re going to have an organization that is flatter, that is more transparent, that’s more energetic.”

After looking over the budget, Rhodes said he’d be spending more money on hard news and less on lighter fare.

“I know there’s a lot of audience interest in Prince William getting married,” said Rhodes. “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,” said Rhodes. “That’s what’s so successful about the programs here that are number one, programs that are among the most successful in television history. We’ll extend that success and we’ll be competitive every time we go on the air or any other platform.”

An insider at the town hall tells TVNewser, “Jeff brings us back to the tradition of CBS network news, while David brings progress in presenting that tradition in a modern way.”

But now the challenge begins — as these two news executives use the past of CBS News as a guiding light for the future, and hope that viewers follow.