CBS News has found its new leaders.
Neeraj Khemlani, an executive vice president at Hearst Newspapers, has signed a deal with ViacomCBS to take the top leadership position at CBS News, according to two sources with knowledge of the deal.
Khemlani will be "co-head" of a newly combined CBS News and CBS Television Stations unit, the company said in an official release Thursday. He will be joined by Wendy McMahon, who until Wednesday was the head of ABC’s television stations group.
"This is an opportunity to create a news and information structure that positions CBS for the future," George Cheeks, the president and CEO of the CBS Entertainment Group, said in the news release. "It speaks to our ability to scale newsgathering, production, technical and operational resources to serve both national and local, linear and digital, with the agility to deliver trusted information to every platform.”
Khemlani is expected to assume primary responsibility for the national CBS News broadcasts, while McMahon assumes responsibility for CBS’ local stations, the sources said. In an email to staff members, Cheeks said that the co-heads “would run this division as a team with each having specific areas of focus” and that he would have “more specificity on this, including reporting structures, in the near future.”
Khemlani will replace Susan Zirinsky, a 40-year veteran of CBS News who took the top job two years ago. While Zirinsky made some notable changes, including revamping "CBS This Morning," ratings for both the morning and evening broadcasts declined during her tenure, reflecting the broad, longstanding declines across the industry.
Television news is undergoing a slew of leadership changes. Kimberly Godwin, a CBS News executive who was also in contention for Zirinsky's position, was this week named president of ABC News, as NBC News first reported last week.
In cable, Rashida Jones, the president of MSNBC, became the first Black woman to lead a cable news network this year. CNN President Jeff Zucker has also announced his intention to step down by the end of 2021. (NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC.)
Zirinsky, a veteran news producer who often chafed at the corporate bureaucracy required of her current position, is in talks to sign a production deal with ViacomCBS to create news content across the company's platforms, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.