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Owens named chief executive behind CBS’ ’60 Minutes’

February 6, 2019
This 2009 photo released by CBS shows Bill Owens, who was named executive producer of "60 Minutes," on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (Heinz Kluetmeier/CBS via AP)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Incoming CBS News president Susan Zirinsky opted for continuity on television’s most popular news program, appointing Bill Owens as executive producer of “60 Minutes” on Wednesday.

Owens has been executive editor at “60 Minutes” since 2008, and has been running it on an interim basis since his predecessor Jeff Fager was fired in September for sending a threatening text message to a colleague writing a story about him.

Zirinsky says Owens is “steeped in the storytelling style audiences have come to expect from “60 Minutes.”

It was the first big appointment for Zirinsky, another CBS veteran. She was named news president last month to replace the outgoing David Rhodes.

Owens is only the third top producer at “60 Minutes,” which first aired in 1968 with the show’s inventor, Don Hewitt, at the helm. Fager replaced him, but was under investigation last summer amid a report that he groped women at parties and tolerated an abusive workplace. That investigation hadn’t been resolved when Fager was fired for threatening a fellow CBS reporter who was reporting a story about it.

Owens has been with CBS News since starting at the network as an intern in the summer of 1988.

“I am honored to work alongside the best journalists in the business who cover the most important stories from around the world,” Owens said. “I promise that will never change.”

The selection has been closely watched in the television industry because of the newsmagazine’s influence and at the show itself, where the staff tends to be wary of outsiders. Zirinsky, the longtime executive producer at “48 Hours,” had been considered a strong candidate before being appointed as Owens’ boss.

Owens has kept the engine running as interim executive producer, with the show airing interviews with President Donald Trump, new Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elon Musk, potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz and three former presidents who talked about President George H.W. Bush following his death. The show has won four Emmys and a DuPont-Columbia journalism award in the past few months.

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