ViacomCBS appoints two new executives for news, local stations

Wendy McMahon (left) and Neeraj Khemlani (right) appear in photographs supplied by ViacomcBS. (Photos courtesy ViacomCBS, Graphic by The Desk)

ViacomCBS will unite its CBS News and CBS Local Stations divisions under a single operation, with two veteran media executives leading the joint effort.

As part of the move, ViacomCBS announced it has hired Wendy McMahon away from the Walt Disney Company to oversee local broadcast operations within CBS and appointed Neeraj Khemlani of Hearst Corporation to lead the company’s news division.

“This is an opportunity to create a news and information structure that positions CBS for the future,” George Cheeks, the executive in charge of ViacomCBS subsidiary CBS Entertainment, said in a news release. “It speaks to our ability to scale news-gathering, production, technical and operational resources to serve both national and local, linear and digital, with the agility to deliver trusted information to every platform.”

Both executives fill roles that were vacated earlier this month amid an investigation into the activities of their two predecessors, who were accused of making racist and abusive statement toward subordinates.

It marks a homecoming for both McMahon and Khemlani: The two previously served in different roles within the company, including at some local CBS stations.

“I’m excited to return home to CBS and work with George and Neeraj to build out a unique and inspired structure that brings together the best in journalism, digital innovation and collaboration, to serve audiences at a time when trusted news and information – the hallmark of CBS – has never been more needed,” McMahon said in a statement on Thursday.

“I’m excited for us to embrace this transformative moment in journalism, culture and technology with a structure and product set that will amplify the importance of the original reporting and storytelling at CBS News and our local stations on all platforms, including the premiere global streaming news network,” Khemlani said in a statement of his own.

The two executives will lead a joint effort to oversee all broadcast and digital initiatives within the CBS News and CBS local broadcast divisions, which were previously operated as two separate groups at ViacomCBS.

The joint effort makes sense, given the recent synergy between the CBS News and CBS Local brands: In recent years, the two segments have shared resources while promoting each other’s products and services. Recently, CBS News has made a broader push toward streaming content within its local owned-and-operated CBS stations, launching localized versions of its flagship CBSN stream in more than a half-dozen markets, including San Francisco. (After months of delays, CBSN Sacramento is expected to finally come online within the next few weeks, according to a source familiar with those plans.)

Susan Zirinsky, the current head of CBS News, will remain in her position during a transitionary period. ViacomCBS said it is currently discussing a future production role for Zirinsky once that transition is complete.

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