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CBS to “centralize” news coverage across local-owned stations

The effort is part of a broader restructuring of operations at CBS News & Stations, and comes several months after 800 Paramount employees — including some at CBS-owned stations — were laid off.

The effort is part of a broader restructuring of operations at CBS News & Stations, and comes several months after 800 Paramount employees — including some at CBS-owned stations — were laid off.

The CBS Building in New York City.
The CBS Building in New York City. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Executives at Paramount Global have announced plans to streamline the output of localized content across more than a dozen CBS-owned local TV stations, according to an internal email reviewed by The Desk on Monday.

The email, set by CBS News executives Ross Dagan and Joel Goldberg, said the decision to centralize the development and distribution of some local news content was intended to help bolster “how we gather the news and best utilize our resources.”

As part of the plan, the local broadcast division at CBS, called CBS News & Stations (formerly CBS Local), launched a “Super Desk” in April that aggregates local content produced by newsrooms at CBS-owned stations and some affiliates, then distributes out raw videos and completed packages to other stations and affiliates across the country.

The initiative is being overseen by editors, producers and executives involved at both CBS News & Stations and CBS Newspath, the affiliate news distribution service. To further the effort, CBS has named Chris Saint Peter as the Director of Editorial and the Centralized Coverage Team and Armando Gonzalez as the Director of Technical Operations and Digital News Gathering, both of whom will work within the CBS News & Stations division.

Saint Peter and Gonzalez will work closely with Terri Stewart, who was named the Managing Editor of the CBS News Super Desk several months ago and who has been “integral in designing the new structure,” Dagan and Goldber said. All sides will coordinate “our people and resources to further our best-in-class coverage,” they wrote.

Also joining the effort are Alesia Powell, who will serve as the Deputy Director of Logistics and Editorial, and will report to Saint Peter and Gonzalez. Mary Helen Campa has been appointed to the role of South Bureau Chief at CBS News, and will help oversee editorial operations that will contribute to the new streamlined effort involving CBS News & Stations and CBS Newspath.

“Our colleagues in these roles will enable our newsrooms and field teams to cover stories more quickly and efficiently and streamline our content across shows, streams, and platforms,” Dagan and Goldber said. “We are excited to see it all come together, and there will be more to come as we continue to build upon this new structure.”

Some of that structure has already been put into play across Paramount-owned local stations. In California, where CBS owns three properties transmitting across six broadcast stations, newsrooms in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento have closely coordinated their efforts to distribute raw videos and finished news packages that boost coverage of the state.

One particular initiative has seen CBS News & Stations invest heavily in the production of investigative journalism, spearheaded by reporters at KOVR (Channel 13) in West Sacramento, which has easier access to California agencies and lawmakers because of its location when compared to sister-stations KCBS (Channel 2) in Los Angeles and KPIX (Channel 5) in San Francisco. (All three stations also house a co-owned, independent broadcast outlet.)

Over the past year, KOVR has produced dozens of investigative news packages that have aired across all three stations. In some instances, KOVR reporters and producers will create localized versions of packages to air on KCBS and KPIX, depending on the topic, according to a person familiar with the strategy.

The streamlining of news operations comes at a time when CBS parent company Paramount has increasingly looked for ways to consolidate resources across its different properties in an effort to cut back on costs while also drawing down its billions of dollars in debt.

Earlier this year, CBS News laid off nearly two dozen journalists as part of a restructuring effort that was partially rooted in the network’s strategy of streamlining operations across both local and national newsrooms. In addition to the pink slips in New York, Paramount also laid off another 50 employees across its local broadcast division, including 11 part-time and full-time employees in Seattle and KOVR’s long-time Director of Digital Content Cameron Glenn. The number of layoffs impacting CBS News & Stations earlier this year has not been previously disclosed.

A total of 800 people saw their jobs eliminated across Paramount’s local, national and digital media operations, The Desk reported in February. Reports about layoffs at CBS News in New York were first made public by the New York Post.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.

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