Viacom's ( VIA) CBS named its head of sports, Sean McManus, to its top news position. He'll replace Andrew Heyward, whose contract won't be renewed at year's end. The appointment is effective Nov. 7. Heyward, who has held the post of president of CBS News for almost 10 years, will serve as an adviser to the CBS News division and assist McManus in the transition. CBS News came under heavy criticism last fall for running a story taking issue with President Bush's National Guard service in the early 1970s. After mounting a vigorous early defense of the story and its sourcing, anchor Dan Rather and CBS conceded that they couldn't confirm the authenticity of documents cited in the report. The furor started with the Sept. 8, 2004, "60 Minutes" broadcast. After initially brushing off questions about the segment, CBS in mid-September started an investigation into the matter and said it would seek to get to the bottom of the dispute. "Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report," Heyward said Sept. 20. "We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret." Rather, who reported the story, issued an apology. "We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry," he said in September. "It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism." Heyward was spared the brunt of the ordeal last year, with CBS Chairman Les Moonves standing firmly beside him, but Rather soon announced his own retirement and a number of producers associated with the piece departed as well.
Meanwhile, Moonves has said repeatedly that it continues to be a major priority at CBS to modernize and customize the news to suit current audiences. "I believe Sean's background has prepared him well for the significant tasks that face us at CBS News, and I am very pleased that we have such a brilliant executive within our management team who can take on this crucial role," said Moonves, in a statement. "The business is changing and the challenges are many. I'm confident that, while maintaining the standards and values of this great organization, we can build upon its legacy and become even more successful, competitive and relevant to the viewers and the nation we serve," said McManus. Of Heyward, who served the company for more than two decades, Moonves said, "Andrew is a man of great character, whose integrity and experience has guided our News division through a time of tremendous change in our industry," said Moonves. "I want to thank him for his unwavering commitment to the core values of journalism, and for his years of creativity, dedication and loyalty to this company. I wish him only the best and look forward with anticipation to what I'm sure will be an important next phase in an already-distinguished career."