TVNewser parent Adweek published its Women Trailblazers issue this past Monday, and CBS News president and senior executive producer Susan Zirinsky was included as one of 28 esteemed women spanning the media and marketing industries.
What do all of these women have in common? Well, each had a groundbreaking 2019, and Adweek features editor Kristina Feliciano adds: “The women featured here are actively building the future they want—pursuing an end to racial and gender inequality, leveling the playing field and making room for those who might otherwise be overlooked.”
Zirinsky certainly falls into the category of “woman trailblazer.” She took over as CBS News president and senior executive producer in February 2019, the first woman ever to assume leadership of CBS’s legendary news division. She says being named president and senior ep was indeed her proudest moment of 2019.
“Having begun as a weekend desk assistant, having worked my way up doing every administrative and editorial job, I know what everyone does. I know what everyone gives up to be part of the driving forces of CBS News,” she told Adweek. “I know how committed CBS News’ reporters are to telling impactful stories that help make sense of our world. There has never been a more important time to be a journalist. I could not be more proud to lead the organization at this time.”
Here’s what else she had to tell Adweek about her extraordinary 2019 and her past, present and future at CBS News:
What I wanted to be when I was growing up
A doctor. My goal shifted when I realized people could die under your care.
Words to live by
Fear is empowering.
Who inspires me
My mother. She never went to college, but she found her calling as a devoted advocate for mental health services. She became involved in the Queens County Mental Health Association in the ’50s. There had been issues in her family relating to mental health, and it led her to discover so many disadvantaged communities that had no mental health services. It became her mission. Cynthia Zirinsky and other family came together and founded Gracie Square Hospital in 1959. She became the director of the psychiatric hospital. The hospital was taken over by New York-Presbyterian Hospital after more than 30 years of operation. My mother continued sitting on the board. At 91, she remains active in the mental health field.
My next big project/initiative/goal
With so many Americans moved by the death of George Floyd, could this be the country’s watershed moment for finally addressing systemic racial injustice and police violence? The work we do as journalists often shield us from the subjects we cover. However, these are not times for detachment. We’re in it. We’re listening to the protestors; some journalists are under fire. We see the video. We cover the violence. We hear the pain. We report it. We try to explain it and put it into context. We as journalists recognize that rooting out racism takes a lifelong commitment. But we must first have the voices inside our organization to help us see the stories that need to be told.
What I want to be remembered for
An agent of change. Honest, transparent, dedicated to the mission of a free, independent and inclusive press. Proud of being a journalist, proud to have told the stories that both touched hearts and brought about change. The person you could call in the middle of the night when you were in trouble. A caring, loving leader who finds sheer, unadulterated joy in the successes of those around her.