The economic impact of Covid-19 has hit CBS News and its Chicago affiliate WBBM CBS-2 in a big way. After 39 years of delivering award-winning investigative stories, iconic Pam Zekman was laid off. Zekman shared two Pulitzer prizes for her work at the Chicago Tribune, from 1971 to 1976, and the Sun-Times, from 1976 to 1981. This was first reported by acclaimed Media Reporter Robert Feder.
According to Feder, the layoffs are a part of an overall restructuring at CBS amid its merger with Viacom. Others let go included morning news anchor Erin Kennedy, sports anchor Megan Mawicke, meteorologist Megan Glaros and reporters Mike Puccinelli and Mai Martinez.
CBS National News Division Affected
The Chicago layoffs are an example of overall staff reductions CBS News made across all of its affiliates due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Ad revenue is reportedly down significantly from last year.
The CBS Broadcast Center in New York was shut down in mid-March after multiple CBS staffers were diagnosed with Covid-19. The network has been forced to produce its newscasts remotely.
Adweek’s TVNewser obtained a memo from CBS News president Susan Zirinsky. In it, she writes, “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.” Read the full statement below:
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.
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Among those staffers is longtime White House correspondent Mark Knoller. Cami McCormick and Dean Reynolds were also laid off. Reynolds is the son of iconic ABC anchor Frank Reynolds, who preceded Peter Jennings.