Tensions Erupt at CBS News Over Top ‘60 Minutes’ Post

Staffers at CBS News are growing anxious over which of two internal candidates is most likely to win the top post at “60 Minutes” — and it’s making some people more cranky than Andy Rooney delivering one of his famous monologues for the show.

The executive producer slot at “60 Minutes” has been open since longtime chief Jeff Fager parted ways with CBS in September over a threatening text message he sent to a CBS News reporter. Now, staffers supporting either Bill Owens, the show’s executive editor, or Susan Zirinsky, the veteran CBS News producer, are trying to stir up unrest.

Zirinsky, the executive producer of “48 Hours,” sent an email to the show’s staffers on Friday calling for calm after The New York Post reported she had potentially gained an edge with executives trying to decide who should lead the show into the future. “Don’t believe anything you read,” Zirinsky wrote in the subject of the email, according to people familiar with the matter.

A CBS News spokeswoman said executives at the CBS Corp. unit had yet to come to a decision over who should take the helm at “60 Minutes.”

The back and forth between supporters of Owens and Zirinsky reveals the allure of the job. Only two people have served as executive producer of “60 Minutes” over its 51 seasons, and whoever becomes the show’s third leader stands to exert much influence in the world of journalism.

A significant portion of the staff would like to see Owens take the reins, according to several people familiar with the program. These people also note that “60” has an insular culture that would be difficult for anyone who has not worked there to navigate. On the other hand, there are also supporters for Zirinsky, who has also supervised award-winning documentaries and breaking news specials. She even served as the inspiration for Holly Hunter’s high-standards news producer in the 1987 film “Broadcast News.”

The two executives have not been outwardly adversarial in the past, but the appeal of the job and the jockeying around it appears to be leading their supporters to campaign for one by dismissing the other.

In the meantime, “60 Minutes” ticks on. Last Sunday’s episode drew the show’s largest audience since last March 25, attracting 14.1 million viewers. “60 Minutes” is also feeding audience into the new CBS drama “God Friended Me,” which lured 8.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, and Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, a CBS News executive vice president, will decide who should lead the newsmagazine. If they are following any kind of timeline, it has not been made public.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Discovery Plans Multi-Network Boost for 'Brady

    Here's The Story: Discovery Plans Multi-Network Boost for 'Brady' Series

    Starting Monday, viewers of cable outlets like TLC, the Food Network and Discovery Channel may experience the strange sensation of hearing snippets of the theme song from the 1970s sitcom, “The Brady Bunch.” On TLC, “Long Island Medium” star Theresa Caputo will appear sporting a ‘do that looks much like the one Florence Henderson’s Carol [...]

  • Steven Knight

    BBC Orders Steven Knight Drama Series ‘SAS: Rogue Heroes’

    The BBC has ordered “SAS: Rogue Heroes,” which is being adapted by “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight, Oscar nominated for “Dirty Pretty Things,” from Ben Macintyre’s book. The drama series will tell the story of how the British special forces unit, the SAS, came to be formed. The series is being produced by Kudos, whose [...]

  • Masters of the Universe: Revelation

    Kevin Smith Announces Anime 'He-Man' Series for Netflix

    Kevin Smith surprised audiences at Sunday’s annual Power-Con convention by announcing a new anime “He-Man” series for Netflix. The new series, titled “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” will take place in the Mattel toy inspired world and will focus on some of the unresolved storylines of the classic ‘80s show. Smith will serve as showrunner [...]

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content