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CBS News Chief David Rhodes Steps Down

The Hollywood Reporter logo The Hollywood Reporter 1/7/2019 Marisa Guthrie
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David Rhodes is out as president of CBS News.

Rhodes tweeted the news of his departure on Sunday evening. 

Rhodes’ exit comes as all three of the news division’s flagship broadcasts – CBS This Morning, Face the Nation and the CBS Evening News – have lost viewers amid a series of anchor changes. The ratings erosion at CBS This Morning – the major revenue driver at the CBS News – has been particularly concerning at the highest levels of the company.

Rhodes’ contract was up in February and many at the news division anticipated his exit.

The anchor roiling at CBS This Morning was set off by the ouster in November 2017 of Charlie Rose, amid widespread misconduct allegations. And the network in December settled a lawsuit stemming from Rose’s conduct. The show has lost about 500,000 viewers since Rose’s exit. ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today – which weathered the ouster of Matt Lauer – also have declined, but CBS This Morning’s losses have been steeper. The worrisome ratings fall precipitated the exit of executive producer Ryan Kadro, who had been at the show since its inception in 2011 and premiere in January 2012. 

Last year, Rhodes tapped John Dickerson to fill the void left by Rose, which necessitated an anchor change at Dickerson’s Face the Nation and Margaret Brennan became that show’s anchor. But in early October, with CBS This Morning still failing to reverse its ratings slide, Rhodes named Bianna Golodryga as the show’s fourth anchor. Co-anchor Gayle King told the New York Times that she did not know about Golodryga’s addition to the show until the day it was announced. That lack of communication typified Rhodes leadership in the waning days of his tenure, several CBS News sources have told The Hollywood Reporter. 

Hanging over the news division have been numerous investigations into conduct at the company. The first investigation began last March and focused solely on the news division; it was conducted by Proskauer Rose. Then after allegations against Moonves became public last summer, that investigation was folded into a company-wide probe conducted by Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton. The firms concluded the inquiry in mid December and presented their findings to the CBS board. But before they could do so, 59 pages of the inquiry were leaked to the New York Times, which published a series of devastating reports about the findings, including that CBS is still paying a settlement to a woman who accused 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt of misconduct. The settlement has been renegotiated six times and has now amounted to more than $5 million; Hewitt died in 2009.

As the investigations dragged on for most of 2018, staffers at CBS News became increasingly frustrated and demoralized. 

Rhodes joined the news division in 2011 in a leadership structure that had him running the news division with Jeff Fager, who was named chairman of CBS News while also maintaining his position as executive producer of 60 Minutes. Fager was ousted in September after sending a threatening text to a CBS News correspondent reporting on accusations against him. When Fager went back to 60 Minutes at the end of 2014, Rhodes was left to run the unit on his own. 

Rhodes joined CBS News from Bloomberg, where he was head of US Television, overseeing all development, editorial, newsgathering, and programming. and made important changes in the network’s talent and programming. He began his career in 1996 as a production assistant at the then-nascent Fox News Channel, where he eventually became a vice president, managing coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, three presidential elections, and natural weather disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina.

More to come.

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