CBS 2 Chicago general manager out after six-month investigation into hostile culture at network-owned TV stations

·3 min read

CBS 2 Chicago general manager Derek Dalton is out after a six-month investigation into an allegedly hostile work environment at the CBS network’s group of 28 TV stations.

Jay Howell, general manager of KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, was also ousted following the investigation, according to an internal memo from Wendy McMahon, president and co-head of CBS News and Stations.

“After six months of an extremely thorough and exhaustive review of our organization and culture, I am writing to let you know the external investigation into leadership at our stations has concluded and, as a result, we will be seeking new general managers for our Los Angeles and Chicago stations,” McMahon said in the memo, which was obtained by the Tribune.

The memo did not name Dalton or cite specific conduct leading to his departure.

The vacancy at the helm of CBS 2 Chicago is the latest shoe to drop in the wake of a January story by the Los Angeles Times about alleged racist and abusive behavior at CBS-owned stations under Peter Dunn, the former president of the network’s TV station group.

Dunn, who became president of the CBS station group in 2009, allegedly cultivated a hostile work environment that included “bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists,” according to the Times. In April, Dunn was forced out, along with David Friend, CBS’ senior vice president of news.

Dalton, a former WGN-TV sales executive, was named general manager of WBBM-Ch. 2 Chicago in April 2018, replacing Marty Wilke, who retired after nearly six years at the station.

A veteran TV executive, Dalton took the CBS 2 job after seven years as general manager of WHEC-TV, an NBC affiliate in Rochester, New York. After sales roles at WGN-Ch. 9 and WGN America in the early 1990s, Dalton served as director of sales at Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting, now part of Nexstar Media Group, from 1995 to 2000. He later headed stations in Denver and San Diego.

Efforts to reach Dalton Thursday were unsuccessful. CBS spokesman Mike Nelson declined to comment.

The CBS station group includes 15 stations that are part of the CBS Television Network, with owned-and-operated stations in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and other major markets.

In a separate internal memo also obtained by the Tribune, George Cheeks, president and CEO of CBS, thanked employees for participating in the external investigation into allegations of misconduct by station leadership.

“This has been a difficult period for everyone in the group,” Cheeks said. “The investigation cited painful revelations about experiences that we cannot tolerate today or in the future.”

Cheeks said the issues revealed by the investigation were “more pronounced in certain areas and at specific stations than others,” and that station leadership needed to make diversity, equity and inclusion a top priority. He said workplace culture at the stations needs to “measurably improve,” and trust needs to be restored with station leaders.

In her memo Thursday, McMahon said the search for new leaders in Chicago and Los Angeles will begin immediately.

“Our success is only possible if we come together and start rewriting the future we want for our stations now,” McMahon said. “It is only possible if leaders at every level of the organization share the same commitment … the same values and priorities.”

rchannick@chicagotribune.com

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