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Vieira Criticizes ’60 Minutes’ for Lack of ‘Flexibility’ : Television: The correspondent says she wishes the CBS program could accommodate the needs of someone who wants to have children.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While she understands the need for full-time reporters on “60 Minutes,” departing correspondent Meredith Vieira said Thursday, she wishes the high-rated program could find a way to accommodate the needs of someone who wants to have children.

“The reporters here work their tails off, and I understand that they want somebody here full-time because they’ve got a show to do,” Vieira said. “But at the same time, I wish that they could’ve continued to show some flexibility with me. I worked very hard for many years to get to ’60 Minutes,’ and I believe that my commitment was clear. Even though I was only supposed to be working half-time this season, I did more stories than we’d agreed upon. In the long run, I think I would’ve been an asset to the program, and I’m sad to be leaving.”

The 37-year-old Vieira, the only female correspondent on “60 Minutes,” will be leaving the show at the end of the season. CBS had no word Thursday on a possible successor.

A CBS spokesman said that the network hopes to find another slot for Vieira. “This is not a pregnancy issue; this is a journalism issue having to do with workload,” said CBS News spokesman Tom Goodman. “Meredith is a top correspondent, and management will be discussing other positions with her.”

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She has been with CBS since 1982 and joined “60 Minutes” in May, 1989, as only its second female correspondent after Diane Sawyer, who left to work for ABC.

Vieira, who is pregnant with her second child, had previously negotiated an arrangement to work half-time this year so that she could spend time with her young son. Earlier this week, Vieira went to “60 Minutes” executive producer Don Hewitt to tell him that she wanted to continue the arrangement during her pregnancy and for some time afterwards. But Hewitt, who had expected Vieira to start working full-time soon, rejected the request.

The issue, Hewitt said in an interview Wednesday, was not Vieira’s pregnancy but rather the need for someone to work full-time. “If anybody was worth waiting for, it was Meredith,” Hewitt said. “But then she said, ‘Hold it, I’m not ready.’ ”

Sources at CBS said that Hewitt never was comfortable with Vieria’s part-time arrangements and became more critical of her work than he might have been, although he denied it. “ ’60 Minutes’ is Don’s baby, and he just doesn’t understand how anybody could have any other priorities,” said one observer.

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“Meredith is certainly guilty of the crime of wanting to have children; there’s no doubt about that. But she earned her way onto that show, and criticizing her work is a slap in the face,” Vieira’s husband, Richard Cohen, a former CBS News producer, said Thursday.


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