The woman who has done it all: Susan Zirinsky

Students had the privilege to hear from an inspiration to women in the journalism field. Susan Zirinsky, an alumna from American University, has served as the executive producer for CBS’s 48 Hours for the past 13 years. Recently, Zirinsky produced the moving tribute to legendary anchor Walter Cronkite. The show revealed her versatility in the world of production because it allowed for a different kind of creativity.

Zirinski’s priority lies with 48 Hours, but she has had the opportunity to work on longer projects, including “Three Days in September,” a Showtime documentary about a school taken hostage in Beslan, Russia and “In God’s Name,” a project documenting the beliefs of 12 different spiritual leaders.

Zirinski describes the hectic timetable prior to the release of the Cronkite documentary.

“I’m an obsessive, intrusive, hands on executive producer,” she said jokingly. The Skype video allowed us to see her unique spunk and character that comes with years of experience and mentorship.

I’m fully aware of the story at every step, she said when discussing her duties. See sees scripts before they are finalized and screens all content for the air. “We [at CBS] are reporters through and through.”

“You’re challenge is being heard in the cacophony of platforms,” she said on our bleak futures (just kidding, right?). Back in the days of Cronkite, there was one man to trust for news. Today, we have to find our place among a plethora of voices that hope to gain trust as well.  Zirinski said it’s important to know, that for good storytelling, you need:

1) A story that sheds light

2) A story that impacts others

3) A story that creates drama

4) A story that’s memorable

Zirinski began her career at CBS in 1972 as a part-time production clerk. Although the job required long hours and days of crying, she said, she couldn’t get enough of it.

It’s okay to fail, she said. Zirinski also assured the class that she never felt ready for any job she started. Below, she describes the day to day stress of the newsroom:

Despite the stress, she says she was still drawn to her work. “There was a tremendous attraction,” she said.


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