'60 Minutes' Chief Jeff Fager Steps Down

posted by Marisa Guthrie - 

The exec had been at CBS News for 36 years and has been a leading figure at the news division for decades.

The tenure of Jeff Fager as the executive producer of60 Minutes is over. 

"Jeff Fager is leaving the company effective immediately," read a statement from CBS News president David Rhodes on Wednesday. "Bill Owens will manage the 60 Minutes team as Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and I begin the search for a new executive producer of the program. 60 Minutesis the most significant news broadcast on television."

Rhodes added: "We are fortunate to have incredibly talented journalists in place whom we know will continue to deliver our defining investigative work. This action today is not directly related to the allegations surfaced in press reports, which continue to be investigated independently. However, he violated company policy and it is our commitment to uphold those policies at every level. Joe Ianniello is in full support of this decision and the transition to come."

A CBS News spokesperson declined to identify the company policy Fager violated, but Fager shed light on it in a statement of his own: “The company’s decision had nothing to do with the false allegations printed in The New Yorker. Instead, they terminated my contract early because I sent a text message to one of our own CBS reporters demanding that she be fair in covering the story. My language was harsh and, despite the fact that journalists receive harsh demands for fairness all the time, CBS did not like it. One such note should not result in termination after 36 years, but it did.”

Fager's departure comes days after a New Yorker story by Ronan Farrow included a new claim of misconduct leveled at the exec. "Sarah Johansen, a producer who was an intern at CBS in the late aughts, said that he groped her at a work party," Farrow reported in the Sept. 9 story. 

Fager, 63, has been at CBS News for 36 years and has been a leading figure at the news division for decades. He joined the network in 1982 after a short stint at WBZ, the CBS station in Boston. He was the executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather for a few years in the mid-1990s. But his most significant contribution has been to 60 Minutes. He is only the second executive producer of the broadcast, taking over from creator Don Hewitt in 2004. 

Fager had significant support at the broadcast, where much of the leadership team under him are women. Many believed that what he's accused of pales in comparison to the allegations against ousted CEO Leslie  Moonves and the newsmen who have been caught up in the #MeToo movement, including Rose, whom Fager hired for multiple roles. "Jeff has been a force for civility at 60 Minutes," said one executive. And while 60 Minutes has long been known as a challenging and highly competitive environment, the culture there, and within the industry overall, has evolved. 

The program has hundreds of awards; this year it received 24 of the news division’s 31 Emmy nominations. It is averaging more than 11 million viewers this season – more than double the viewership of competing TV newsmagazines – and is regularly in TV’s top ten most watched programs. Under Fager’s stewardship, the broadcast launched its successful, single sponsored digital extension, 60 MinutesOvertime.com. And he lured Oprah Winfrey to 60 Minutes as a part time correspondent in 2017, at the start of the broadcast’s 50th season.

Fager was named chairman of CBS News in 2011, and charged with revitalizing the news division, which had a rocky transition on the Evening News between Dan Rather and Katie Couric (with Bob Schieffer as interim anchor). He launched CBS This Morning in January 2012; pairing Rose and Gayle King, and later Norah O’Donnell. After decades of misfires in the morning, the broadcast has given CBS its best tune-in in nearly 30 years and returned the news division to respectability during a highly lucrative daypart. 

Fager's resignation comes as investigations into the allegations leveled at Leslie Moonves as well as CBS News and the overall culture at the company continue. Those probes are being handled by two separate firms: Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton.

In a July 27 The New Yorker story, Fager was accused of ignoring and enabling bad behavior by two high-ranking male producers at 60 Minutes. Anonymous former employees who spoke to the New Yorker's Ronan Farrow also accused Fager of misconduct.

Fager strenuously denied the allegations in the story: "It is wrong that our culture can be falsely defined by a few people with an ax to grind who are using an important movement as a weapon to get even, and not by the hundreds of women and men that have thrived, both personally and professionally, at 60 Minutes."

The news division has been roiled by a series of articles; the first hit last November in the Washington Post and included on-the-record accusations of misconduct from women who worked for or aspired to work for Rose at his PBS program. Within 24 hours of the article’s publication, Rose was fired by CBS and his PBS program was canceled. 

Though none of the allegations came from inside CBS News, a follow-up Post article last May included accounts that women took concerns about Rose to three managers at CBS News. And sources have told The Hollywood Reporter that many women took complaints about Rose to CBS News human resources, following the first article in November.

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