CBS News was hit hard by a round of corporate cost-cutting that saw "a single-digit percentage" of the network's news staffers laid off, according to an estimate given by network president Susan Zirinsky during a Wednesday afternoon all-hands conference.
According to The Holllywood Reporter, an estimated t50 staffers were cut, though the network has not said specifically how many were affected.
"Everyone is shocked," a CBS News staffer tells THR.
The exec was apologetic and sympathetic during the network's post-cuts meeting, according to multiple staffers on the call, explaining the rationale for the cuts and engaging with the human cost of the layoffs.
"There isn’t a single person leaving who did a bad job," she said. "It’s economics. It is absolutely the financials that has forced us to make these decisions. ... I’m really sorry. There is not a person who won’t be missed.”
CBS News was the first national television news network to have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus among its staff, telling employees to work from home on March 11 after two employees tested positive.
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.