’60 Minutes’ to Lose Black Reporter to ABC

The show's first reporter of color since Ed Bradley's death is to bring his skills to the rival network.

Byron Pitts (CBS News)
Byron Pitts (CBS News)

ABC News is finalizing a deal to hire Byron Pitts of CBS, a contributor to “60 Minutes” and chief national correspondent for the “CBS Evening News, ” according to reliable news reports published Friday.

Pitts will serve as both chief national correspondent and anchor at ABC News, and will appear across the network’s programming. ABC News President Ben Sherwood is expected to announce the news next week,Dylan Byers of Politico, the first to break the news, reported. Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter later reported that she had been given the same information by “sources.”

“Pitts is just the latest in a string of high-profile hires for the network,” Byers wrote. “Sherwood announced the hire of New York Times reporters Jeff Zeleny and Susan Saulny earlier this week, as well as the appointment of Rick Klein to political director. Sources who spoke to POLITICO earlier this week said Sherwood is trying to beef up the network’s political bench following a number of recent departures.”

Both Pitts and Saulny are black journalists, providing a marked contrast with the new hires at CNN after Jeff Zucker recently assumed the top job. Zucker hired white journalists Jake Tapper, Chris Cuomo and  Rachel Nichols while sidelining anchor Soledad O’Brien, who is black and Latina. Zucker’s appointment also prompted the resignation of Mark Whitaker, an African American who was CNN executive vice president and managing editor. Zucker’s personnel moves prompted protests from the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Pitts, 52, joined CBS News as a correspondent in May 1998. He was named a contributing correspondent on “60 Minutes” in 2009, becoming the first African American presence on the show since correspondent Ed Bradley died in 2006. “I wanted to be a part of ’60 Minutes’ since I was in high school,” Pitts then told Richard Huff of the Daily News in New York. “For me, ’60 Minutes’ is to broadcast journalism what the Yankees are to baseball: It’s the gold standard.”

Pitts, ABC News and CBS News were not commenting on Friday.

Pitts’ wife, Lyne Pitts, is also involved in a new venture. She is heading up the U.S. operation of Arise News, a 24-hour international TV news operation that launched last month.

Byers reported last week, “In recent weeks, ABC News president Ben Sherwood has been courting political reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other outlets in an effort to strengthen the network’s D.C. bureau after a string of recent departures, sources familiar with the network’s plans tell POLITICO. . . .

“Sherwood’s motivations are clear: He is eager to bolster ABC’s commitment to political coverage, especially after the loss of political director Amy Walter, senior Washington producer Virginia Moseley and chief White House correspondent Jake Tapper — all three of whom left, for various reasons, within the past three months.”