The Media Today

After Moonves’s exit, will change come to CBS?

September 11, 2018

 The day after Leslie Moonves, perhaps the most powerful media executive in America, resigned amid allegations of sexual abuse and harassment, his former employees were left to deal with the fallout. Norah O’Donnell, who 10 months ago was forced to address reports of misconduct by her former CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose, said Monday, “There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic, and it is pervasive in our culture…Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.” She expressed optimism that the investigations into the network’s culture would produce change, adding, “This has to end.”

But questions remain concerning how serious CBS is about changing its culture. Moonves held onto his position for six weeks after The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow first reported on claims against him. In interviews given over the past 48 hours, Farrow has noted that his reporting included allegations against 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager, who remains on the job. The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner notes that Moonves could still receive up to $120 million in severance and that CBS will not make public the full report by outside law firms investigating the company.

Interim CBS CEO Joseph Ianniello sent a memo to staff on Monday focusing on “moving forward,” offering only a glancing reference to the scandal surrounding Moonves’s exit. HuffPost’s Emily Peck reports that the failure to address the elephant in the room disturbed at least some CBS employees, as did the revelation that Moonves will stay on for one year to “perform transition advisory services.” 

RELATED: Moonves exits as CBS remains in the #MeToo spotlight

The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan credits “the combination of meticulous journalism and courageous accusers willing to take a risk” with forcing CBS to take action in Moonves’s case. She warns, however, that without both of those pieces in place, “corporations even now are inclined to disbelieve women and to fiercely protect their own rainmakers. They may start an internal investigation, and make pleasant noises about workplace safety, but they would very much like to look the other way. And they do.”

Moonves may be gone, but the culture he oversaw will take longer to change. On Monday, Farrow told PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz, “There are still a lot of questions for a lot of employees at CBS who are frightened to speak.”

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Below, more on the reverberations from Moonves’s dramatic downfall.

  • Curtains fall: For CNN, Bill Carter writes that Moonves, who started his career in show business as a minor actor, may have been fooling everyone all along. “It’s possible that we were all watching the most effective performance of Leslie Moonves’s life,” Carter writes. “The show is over now.
  • Exit strategy: NBC News’s Claire Atkinson reports that, according to a CBS corporate filing released on Monday, “Moonves is to remain as an unpaid advisor to CBS as part of his termination agreement, while a prospective $120 million payout will be put in a holdover trust pending the results of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against him.”
  • Colbert’s response: Late Show host Stephen Colbert opened his monologue by addressing Moonves’s resignation, referencing Farrow’s Sunday report: “The article is extremely disturbing, and I’m not surprised that that’s it,” he said. “Les Moonves is gone.”
  • Chen’s break: Moonves’s wife, Julie Chen, is taking a break from hosting The Talk, which airs during the day on CBS. She had defended her husband in July after Farrow’s initial report.


Other notable stories:

  • As Hurricane Florence churns toward the US coast, the banner headline on The Weather Channel’s website this morning reads “Destructive Strike Likely.” The Category 4 storm is expected to make landfall late Thursday, and residents in the Carolinas and Virginia face mandatory evacuation orders. National outlets are sending crews to the coast to prepare for live coverage.
  • Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House, finally hits shelves today. The book has been blasted by President Trump as a “scam,” which has done nothing to dampen the anticipation for the latest work from the dean of Washington political reporters. For The Washington Post, Jill Abramson writes that, “as a profile of Trump, the book is devastating.
  • The Houston Chronicle’s Austin bureau chief has resigned as the paper investigates whether he made up sources. Executive Editor Nancy Barnes told readers that Mike Ward, a veteran Texas reporter, “has insisted that his work was truthful, that his work involved real people,” and that the paper has hired an “independent, highly respected journalist” to examine Ward’s work.
  • CJR’s Jonathan Peter’s attempts to answer the question: Who owns a twitter account? Andy Bitter, who covered Virginia Tech football for The Roanoke Times, is being sued by the paper after taking his Twitter handle and its 27,000 followers with him when he moved over to The Athletic. “It’s unclear how the case will turn out,” Peters writes. “The facts need finding, and there aren’t good precedents.” He adds: “It’s reasonable to assume that these types of issues will become more common.”
  • Adam Clymer, a longtime Washington reporter and editor for The New York Times, died Monday. The paper’s Sam Roberts remembers Clymer’s time covering “congressional intrigue, eight presidential campaigns and the downfall of both Nikita S. Khrushchev and Richard M. Nixon.” He notes that Clymer took particular pride in being called a “major-league asshole” by George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign. “You know, if they all love you, you might as well just be driving a Good Humor truck,” Clymer said of the criticism.
  • Jezebel has a new editor in chief. Koa Beck is leaving the company and will be replaced by deputy editor Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, reports the New York Post’s Alexandra Steigrad. Meanwhile, Axios is adding Joann Muller, currently Detroit bureau chief for Forbes, to cover the autonomous vehicle beat, according to Talking Biz News.

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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.