CBS hires general manager for KCBS, KCAL in Los Angeles

·4 min read
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16, 2019 Photo of the Broadcast Center Building on the CBS Studios Center in Studio City on October 16, 2019 for a package of stories about CBS' television stations. The stations, KCBS Channel 2 and KCAL Channel 9, are housed on the lot. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
CBS Studios Center in Studio City is home to KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Continuing a sweeping overhaul of its TV station leadership, CBS on Monday named veteran executive Joel Vilmenay as general manager of the company's two broadcast outlets in Los Angeles: KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9.

The Washington, D.C., native plans to join CBS in Los Angeles on Oct. 18. Vilmenay has spent two decades with Hearst Television, including as president and general manager of its NBC affiliate in New Orleans, WDSU-TV Channel 6, since 2007.

Vilmenay also will be responsible for the digital news operation, CBSN Los Angeles, and the L.A. stations' local news website.

He replaces Jay Howell, who was ousted in July after a six-month internal review into alleged misconduct in the stations group. CBS opened its inquiry after a Los Angeles Times investigation in January revealed allegations of racism, misogyny and misconduct by longtime CBS managers. The series found that the highest-ranking station managers cultivated an environment that included bullying female executives and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.

After The Times' report, leaders of the National Assn. of Black Journalists met with CBS' chief executive to decry the lack of diversity and demand substantial reforms.

ViacomCBS has since severed ties with managers of its stations in New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles. The top Miami station executive departed in late 2020. Longtime general managers at CBS' stations in Dallas and Denver separately retired this year.



In the wake of The Times' report, CBS Chief Executive George Cheeks consolidated management of CBS News and the CBS TV stations group and installed a new cadre of leaders. Eight of the nine new ranking executives in stations management are women and people of color.

For example, veteran journalist Johnny Green, who is Black, was named the top executive of flagship WCBS-TV Channel 2 and WLNY Channel 55 in New York. Green was brought in to oversee WCBS’ news operations after allegations that the WCBS newsroom was a “hostile environment," where Black, Latino, Asian and gay employees were treated poorly, and stories that occurred in Black and Latino neighborhoods were at times overlooked.

In August, Tom Canedo, who is Latino, became president of the CBS Stations; and Jennifer Lyons was named general manager of WBBM in Chicago.

The hiring of Vilmenay, who is of Haitian descent, was announced by two of the new group leaders, Wendy McMahon, president and co-head of CBS News and Stations, and Jennifer Mitchell, who joined this summer as president of the CBS TV stations.

"I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to join the ViacomCBS team and to move to Southern California," Vilmenay said in a statement. "My wife, daughter, son and I are excited to relocate and reconnect with our family and dear friends who live there, and I’m looking forward to working with Wendy, Jennifer and the entire CBS Los Angeles team."

A longtime sales executive, Vilmenay got his start at WMUC Radio at his alma mater, the University of Maryland, where he earned an MBA and a bachelor's degree in radio, television and film. . After college, Vilmenay became an account executive at WWWZ-FM in Charleston, S.C. He worked in sales at WUSA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Washington, and at WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich.

He served as general manager at KETV-TV, Hearst's ABC affiliate in Omaha, Neb., from 2003-2007.

"We are pleased that our Los Angeles team is getting a solid leader like Joel, who is an innovator as well as a thoughtful provider of inspiration and calm," McMahon said in the statement. "I admire Joel for the incredible poise and professionalism he has displayed the last 14 years in one of the busiest breaking-news markets in the country."

McMahon noted that Vilmenay took the reins in New Orleans 18 months after the city was battered by Hurricane Katrina, and his stewardship continued through the recent Hurricane Ida. "He has helped his colleagues and local community rise above the storm on countless occasions," she said.

With Monday's announcement, CBS' top two TV station executives in Los Angeles are Black.

In November, Andrea Parquet-Taylor was named news director of KCBS and KCAL, which are jointly managed.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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