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CBS Chiefs: Former Exec’s Claim Network ‘Has a White Problem’ Is ‘Disheartening,’ ‘Painful’

Susan Zirinsky, president of CBS News, and Kelly Kahl, president of CBS Entertainment, sent emails to staff Tuesday expressing concern over claims made in an essay published in Variety in which CBS veteran Whitney Davis detailed racist discrimination and sexual harassment she witnessed and was subjected to at the network.

In response, Zirinsky said Davis’ letter serves as a reminder to CBS senior leaders “to check ourselves” and to “take our culture as seriously as we take our journalism.” Kahl said that the letter shows how much work the network still needs to do to be fully inclusive.

CBS had previously hired two law firms last year to conduct an independent investigation into cultural issues at CBS, as well as the alleged misconduct of then-CEO Leslie Moonves, however, when the investigation closed and Davis saw the findings, she realized that CBS has “a white problem across the board.”

Read the full responses from Zirinsky and Kahl below.

From Zirinsky:

To My Senior Management team,

I was disheartened to read about a young woman’s experience at CBS in Variety. She started her career at the News division – and even if her experience in News was several years ago – some sentiments are relevant to people working here today. It is this reminder today that has made me want to ask all of you as senior leaders here to check ourselves – make sure we are doing all we can.  I’m asking you to take our culture as seriously as we take our journalism. I’m looking for you to take an active approach where we seek input from a diversity of voices and diversity of reporters and employees, just as we do in our editorial. We have made progress – yet we need to do more.

We’re in the midst of an encouraging transition here. I’m confident that the recent changes at the senior level here will help. Ingrid is in a new role focused on strategic staff development, which includes creating diverse pipelines for talent to grow and flourish here. Ingrid is going to continue seek out the issues and address them. I just announced Jose Andino as our first-ever senior HR leader inside the division. I’m pleased today to have received several notes of suggestions – many mentioning the importance of our unconscious bias training which we already put in place and will continue. To be honest, there is much to be proud of in how our newsroom stacks up to others. However, we want to lead and not follow in creating a culture that inspires and enables all to succeed, no matter who they are.  I will be getting together with some people in the organization to brainstorm ideas. If you’d like to join or share ideas, please let me or Ingrid know.


From Kahl:

Hello everybody. I wanted to reach out to CED leadership regarding today’s story in Variety by Whitney Davis. Needless to say, it’s not a fun read. It’s painful and an important reminder that while we’ve made great strides with inclusivity in many areas, especially on the screen, there is still a lot of work to do ahead.

We’ve made culture a top priority here. The company is supporting this with new programs and policies, some of which you’ve hopefully read or heard about, and others that will be announced in the days ahead. We remain committed to a positive workplace experience for everyone in our halls…and on our sets. And we’ll continue on that path.

If you or anyone in your department have any questions or concerns about today’s story that you (or they) would like to talk about, please know my door is always open.


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