CBS News President Susan Zirinsky: ‘I’m Sad to Report Today That Some of Our Colleagues and Good Friends Will Be Leaving the Company’

By A.J. Katz 

ViacomCBS has undergone multiple rounds of layoffs since the merger closed in December, but they were mostly on the Viacom side. The company announced today that layoffs have now come to CBS.

In a memo, CBS chief executive officer George Cheeks wrote that the layoffs are a combination of post-merger streamlining, “the ongoing and transformative changes happening in the media business, as well as circumstances from the unprecedented pandemic that we continue to navigate.”

CBS News president Susan Zirinsky wrote a separate memo to news staff, which we’ll post below.


Deadline first reported the layoffs at CBS.

It has been an incredibly difficult period for the news division, which has been forced to work without its headquarters for two-and-a-half months now. The CBS Broadcast Center in New York was shut down in mid-March after multiple CBS staffers who had been working in the building were diagnosed with Covid-19. The network has been forced to produce its newscasts remotely.

Here’s Zirinsky’s memo to staff:

You should have just received a note from CBS CEO George Cheeks about changes today at the Company. Unfortunately, these changes today include CBS News.

No one could have foreseen the economic fallout from the pandemic coming on top of the cost-savings initiatives already underway from the merger of CBS and Viacom. As a result, we have scrutinized our entire business model, our budgets, and what we learned in news gathering during the last months. We are not alone; media companies and businesses all over the country are re-organizing and developing new operating models.

Working with reduced budgets, we have had to make some extremely difficult decisions. I’m sad to report today that some of our colleagues and good friends will be leaving the company.

These decisions are particularly painful for our entire organization, which has performed at the highest level during the Covid-19 pandemic, overcoming so many obstacles. But this restructuring is necessary to ensure CBS News remains strong long into the future.

CBS News is not alone in this process—similar changes are happening across many CBS divisions today and have taken place in Viacom divisions over the past few months. We looked at every option and exhausted other available cost-savings before taking this step. There is nothing more upsetting than having to face these economic realities and I’ve tried very hard to minimize the impact on all of you.

Kim [Godwin] and I will be joining regular show meetings throughout the day to answer any questions you may have about today’s news.

As journalists, we know that every change like this impacts a colleague and their family. There isn’t a single person we won’t miss, but we have a responsibility to respond to a financial world that has changed dramatically over the last few months. And we have a responsibility to position CBS News for the future. While it is a painful day, I know the strength and the power of this organization, and I know that we can go forward in a meaningful way.

I want to thank every single person who is leaving us for their dedication to this organization.