Neeraj Khemlani and Wendy McMahon Are Presidents and Co-Heads of CBS News and CBS TV Stations, Starting Today

By A.J. Katz 

It’s official: Neeraj Khemlani and Wendy McMahon are the presidents and co-heads of CBS News and CBS Television Stations.

The duo sent out a memo to staff Monday morning with the news that they will step into their new roles today.

Here’s the memo, obtained by TVNewser.

As we officially step into our new roles today, we want to share how excited we are to be back at CBS. As many of you know, we both spent formative parts of our careers here. This certainly feels like a homecoming.

We, along with the millions of people who engage with CBS News, Digital and Television Stations every day, have great admiration for the work you do. It reflects the highest standards in our industry, and it makes coming back to help write the next chapters of the Company’s history so compelling.

In just the past few weeks, we saw Juror 52 from the Chauvin trial on “CBS This Morning”; the Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on “60 Minutes”; former President George W. Bush on “CBS Evening News”; French President Macron on “Face the Nation”; an ongoing investigation of California’s unemployment benefits program on KCBS; in-depth reporting on anti-Asian violence on CBSN; and the release of a man who had been imprisoned for nearly 32 years thanks to 20-plus years of reporting at “48 Hours.” Our future depends on your exceptional journalism.

We fully embrace the vision George Cheeks has for this new division – News, Stations and Digital working hand-in-hand – creating a new pathway to the future. It’s a bold outlook that gives us opportunities to innovate and grow. One strategy, built on a foundation of important journalism, the relevance of our local stations and the clear promise of streaming.

We have big ambitions that will be realized by bringing the thousands of people of CBS News, Stations and Digital together in creating an unmatched media organization, with each and every one of us—in front of and behind the camera—fully invested in and accountable for our broadcast strength and digital future. 

We’ve been able to see in recent days how collaboration and creativity make CBS stronger. With WCCO, CBSN Minnesota, network news, special events, radio and Newspath teams working together covering the Chauvin trial, CBS stood out on every platform during this landmark event. Similarly, we had an advantage when a reporter for both WBBM and CBS News was one of the first journalists on the scene of the shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis. This is just a glimpse at how we can use our scale and expertise across the division to serve audiences on all platforms.

This new vision is unique to CBS – we are not saddled with the siloed structures and business models of our competitors. We are already in position to build at scale the premier local-to-global streaming news experience. By harnessing the power of our teams, we will be able to provide unparalleled, expansive on-the-ground reporting. That means reporters from New York to LA, Chicago to Dallas, London to Beijing and everywhere in between—all poised to deliver a choreography of coverage, a greater Eye on America and Eye on the world.

We cannot tell the stories of America without a deep commitment to reflecting the audiences we serve both in our coverage and in our culture. To that end, we will be expanding CBS News’ Race and Culture Unit across our station and digital groups, ensuring that we are elevating the voices of our under-represented communities. Second, we are excited to continue growing our local news streaming footprint, with launches in three more cities this year: Sacramento, Baltimore and Miami.

As we grow and evolve, our unbiased reporting and the artful way in which we craft our stories will continue to be our signature, setting us apart from the competition. It’s what makes a CBS News story…a CBS News story. It’s the soul of CBS News and the soundtrack that powers an ethos of optimism at “CBS Sunday Morning”; a veritable feast of culinary, literary and musical profiles on “CBS This Morning Saturday”; and hard-hitting reporting and far-flung adventures to the farthest corners of the globe on “60 Minutes” and all of our broadcasts. It’s the breaking news on stories that matter, from wildfires and floods to the high-impact investigations that hold local officials accountable. It’s bringing to life the local characters in the communities we call home. There is no mistaking what we do and how we do it.

Khemlani and McMahon also made a point of acknowledging outgoing CBS News president Susan Zirinsky in their note.

As we move forward, we want to acknowledge the force that is Susan Zirinsky for her indelible mark on CBS News, and how she has sharpened the organization in nearly every way during her tenure as President. Z has provided the strong foundation we continue to build upon starting today. As only she can, Z has made this transition smooth, insightful and exhilarating.

In the coming days, we will be meeting with every team across the division. In the meantime, please know that we’re aware you have questions about how we will operate going forward. We will be in touch very soon with more specifics.

What we can say on Day 1 is that we are committed to working and winning together as a team, unified in our pursuit of great journalism and in our support of one another.

Wendy and Neeraj

As mentioned in the note, this is a homecoming for both execs. Khemlani was a highly-productive 60 Minutes producer for eight years before leaving CBS to become the head of Yahoo News. He later worked for A&E, History, Vice, ESPN, before making the move to Hearst and running the newspaper side of their business for the past year and a half. Khemlani has a multi-media background, and is someone who also happens to have an understanding of both the “old guard” and the “new guard” of CBS News. The decision-makers feel they hit a home run here.

Most recently the president of ABC Owned and Operated Stations, McMahon is no stranger to CBS either. She previously spent seven years on the CBS local side at WBZ Boston and WCCO Minneapolis before making the move to ABC, first running digital for the O&Os before ascending to the No. 1 position. McMahon understands the business side and how local stations work as well as anyone.

Additionally, Zirinsky sent her own memo out to the staff, also obtained by TVNewser.

                                                                   3 May 2021                        

 

Today is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for CBS News.

 

We are welcoming our new leadership Wendy McMahon and Neeraj Khemlani. For those of you joining the 9am Editorial call, please come prepared to turn your cameras on and say hello.

 

There are few times in a career where you get to experience something truly transformational. Today, a new CBS News – a reconfigured division in partnership with the CBS Stations and Digital with the scale to position us for the future – is launched. The transformation is now.

 

Wendy and Neeraj, two extremely experienced media executives, are the right people to lead this newly formed division. They are smart, engaged leaders with deep roots in the news business. They know CBS News. They are big thinkers with a bold vision for the future. We are in great hands.

 

I really applaud George for coming up with what I think is an innovative, bold, transformative, enlightened news division.

 

This sets up CBS News and the Stations for success. The world is experiencing news content in so many places today. We must change to meet this challenge. We cannot stand still.

 

Thank you seems too small to acknowledge what each and every one of you has done for CBS News over these last two years. Most of all we embraced who we are and what we do best…great journalism.

 

I am proud of the risks that we took. I’m proud of your willingness to go out there to cover stories large and small. I’m proud of how you met the challenge of producing impactful journalism during a pandemic and stories of social injustice that are reshaping our society day by day. And I will be proud to watch the journalism you produce in the future.

 

The task we faced was daunting and we made it because of your strength and commitment.

 

This has been a life changing experience for all of us and I would not trade one moment. Not one.

 

Z

 

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