Al Ortiz, a veteran CBS News executive who is also the current executive producer of “CBS Evening News,” is set to leave the Paramount Global unit this summer after working his way up through the ranks over 43 years.
Ortiz and CBS News executives announced the decision during a morning editorial call Wednesday. A search for a new top producer at “CBS Evening News” is expected to start in the near future. CBS News recently came to new terms with anchor Norah O’Donnell to extend the contract that keeps her behind the desk through 2024. Ortiz joined the program as interim executive producer in the summer of 2021 following the departure of Jay Shaylor. TVNewser previously reported the details of Ortiz’ decision.
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“I couldn’t be more proud of the direction we are headed. We’re gaining momentum. You’ve heard me say we’re closer to NBC than we have been in 27 years and closer to ABC since 2018-2019,” Neeraj Khemlani, co-president of CBS News and Stations, told staffers during the call. He told Ortiz: “When you ultimately retire this summer, you’ll still be on the top of your game. The job is the penultimate of the industry. You’ve accomplished it all, and CBS News is forever in your debt.”
Ortiz is in the midst of his second stint as executive producer of the “CBS Evening News.” He has also been vice president of standards and practices, foreign editor, London bureau chief and Washington bureau chief, and has helped lead the Decision Desk for CBS News for many Election Nights. He began his career at CBS News in 1977 at CBS News Radio.
He has witnessed some high-tension moments at CBS News. It was Ortiz in 2013 who reviewed a troubled “60 Minutes” segment by former “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan about an attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and pronounced it “deficient in several respects,” including producers’ inability to check thoroughly the account of the main source of the segment, Dylan Davies, who used the pseudonym Morgan Jones. The internal review found that CBS producers had been told before airing the segment that Davies had lied to his own employer about his whereabouts during the night of the attack. “This crucial point — his admission that he had not told his employer the truth about his own actions — should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process,” Ortiz said in the review. As a result, Logan took a leave of absence and her fortunes at the news unit were reversed by the airing of the segment.
In remarks made Wednesday, Ortiz focused on his recent tenure at “CBS Evening News.” “I’m proud of the franchises we’ve started and the ‘Eye on America’ we brought back, proud of all the efforts we’ve made to build up the broadcast as reliable authoritative compilation of the day, hard news with heart, as Norah likes to put it. I’m particularly proud of the original reporting and enterprise journalism we’ve showcased,” he said.
Khemlani said he would work with both O’Donnell and the company’s human-resources department to fill the executive producer role. The company may not have to look too hard. Dozens of producers hired to work at the soon-to-shutter streaming service CNN+ are actively looking for work.
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