CBSViacom’s layoffs this week also impacted CBS News and CBS-owned affiliates, the latest fallout to hit news media amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The layoffs were said to make up a single digit percentage of the news division — reportedly 5%, or around 75 employees. They follow recent staff cuts at outlets such as The Atlantic, BuzzFeed and Vox Media.
CBS News president Susan Zirinsky wrote in a memo on Wednesday that “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.”
Among those leaving are correspondent Don Dahler, who wrote to staffers in an email obtained by Deadline, “Let me say this right at the top: given the life-and-death struggle we as a species are going through right now; the loved ones we’ve lost and stand to lose, and the financial heartbreak, fear, and realities faced by millions, the fact that I am now counted among the unemployed, after many, many decades in this fantastic business, is an insignificant development.”
CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller was showered with praise on Thursday after journalist Yashar Ali tweeted that he was among those departing.
Knoller, though, wrote on Twitter, “Thanks to all for the many kind words. Much appreciated. For the time being, I’m still on the job, still keeping count on the president. Will see what happens. Thanks again.”
Knoller, who has covered every president since Gerald Ford, is known especially for his fastidious collection of facts and data about the presidents — everything from trips taken to number of news conferences held. Former White House press secretaries Robert Gibbs and Joe Lockhart tweeted out praise, as did Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who wrote, “As White House Press Secretary I enjoyed working with @MarkKnoller who is a good journalist and an encyclopedia of knowledge on the Presidency. If true this is a big loss to the @whpresscorps. and his absence will be felt by many.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper wrote, “Legendary. Huge loss not just for CBS News but for journalism writ large and the world.”
The layoffs also impacted CBS affiliates. In Los Angeles, Sharon Tay, Jeff Michael and Garth Kemp were among those leaving. In Chicago, longtime investigative reporter Pam Zekman was reportedly among the layoffs. She had been at the station since 1981, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Meanwhile, Dean Reynolds, correspondent in CBS News’ Chicago bureau, said in an email to colleagues that he plans to retire later this summer after 49 years in journalism.
In an email obtained by Deadline, Reynolds wrote on Thursday, “When I came to CBS News back in 2007 I was naturally anxious. But this network and the wonderful people here made me feel welcome from the start. Had it not been for your graciousness I would not have prospered. I will forever be in your debt. The camera crews, producers, editors, the assistants of all stripes and the executives all pitched in to give me the fame and glory I was only too happy to accept. I acknowledge and salute you all now, belatedly.”
He added, “Never forget. Journalism is a calling. Your dedication to it is awesome and admirable. And the younger staffers coming up should give everyone confidence that CBS News will be a force for years to come.”
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