All in all, it was not the best week for CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter . . .
Susan Winston quit her job as executive director for planning for "CBS Morning News" yesterday -- as of Friday -- with still another blast at CBS News for its failure to back her ideas for a revamped morning news program and the recent decision to remove it entirely from the News division in January . . .
And then last week's network news ratings floated in over Van's transom yesterday to reveal that "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" had won again, although by the skinniest of margins (a skinniest 85,900 TV homes difference) . . .
But that makes it two wins and a tie for first for NBC plus one outright win for "ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" over the past five weeks as "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" slides back into the pack on a regular basis . . .
For the week ending July 25, NBC had a 10.1 Nielsen rating and a 22 percent audience share, compared with a 10.0/22 for CBS and a 9.5/21 for "ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" . . .
(It wasn't an entirely discouraging day for Peter yesterday, however. Staffers helped him celebrate his birthday -- the big four-eight -- right there on the set after last night's broadcast) . . .
Winston, who joined CBS News in May to reformat "CBS Morning News," said yesterday her parting with the network "was very friendly and businesslike. There were no disputes" . . .
But she reiterated her stand that she is "totally at odds with their decision" to take the show out of the News division. "I couldn't contribute to something I was at odds with" . . .
Monday, she met with Sauter and CBS Broadcast Group President Gene F. Jankowski. The latter meeting was at her request and there was no comment from Jankowski's office yesterday about what transpired . . .
In a statement to News staffers yesterday, Sauter said, "We are disappointed that Susan Winston has decided not to stay with the company and produce the new morning broadcast to begin airing in 1987. She is a highly skilled and creative producer and the enhancements she brought to the 'Morning News' speak eloquently to that fact. She will depart at the end of this week. We sincerely wish her well" . . .
There's the moonscape called "CBS Morning News," which must totter through until January and the debut of a new, two-hour show to be delivered by a new unit entirely formed within CBS Broadcast Group . . .
Sauter and CBS television network President Tony Malara taped an eight-minute presentation for nervous CBS affiliates late yesterday in which Sauter promised, "We are going to use our resources to assure there is no deterioration in the quality of the "CBS Morning News" broadcast between now and January" . . .
Sauter had no particulars about the new broadcast, which will be produced under his direction, but promised "the utmost flexibility for our success" and "absolute latitude" in choice of hosts and the "environment in which the broadcast is done" . . .
Sauter did not refer directly to Winston's recommendations for "CBS Morning News" but told the affiliates that "at the end of 90 days it was painfully apparent we are still dealing with a longstanding conflict -- the inherent contradiction between the kind of broadcast the News division can mount and the kind of broadcast the audience seems to want at that time i.e., 7 to 9 a.m. . A new orientation must be brought to the effort." Even with entertainment elements introduced into "CBS Morning News," Sauter said, "we are identified with hard news at a period people do not have a large news appetite" . . .
(If we were putting those last couple of sentences to music, we might call it "Elegy for the Good Old Days at CBS News") . . .
Yesterday, CBS News Executive Vice President Howard Stringer said that following a two-week stint for Bruce Morton and Faith Daniels as coanchors of "CBS Morning News" starting next week (after the departures of Maria Shriver and Forrest Sawyer) . . . he would probably rotate the anchor jobs through the summer and "then see what we can do about assigning permanent anchors through the fourth quarter (October through December) . . .
Sauter yesterday promised the affiliates that "our very best people" will be assigned to the lame-duck "Morning News" . . .
Also in the News
A strike deadline of midnight tonight was imposed yesterday by two major actors' unions as negotiations continued for a new contract. The Screen Actors Guild and the the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represent a total of 92,000 performers, had voted earlier to authorize a strike but had not set a deadline . . .
Meanwhile, the western division of the Writers Guild of America voted to give "moral support" to the actors. Executive Director Brian Walton said, however, that the writers could not honor a picket line in the event of a strike because "we have a no-strike clause in our contract. Our support is moral, vocal and analytical" . . .
We don't want to get you all excited this morning, TV Column fans, but did you know that the July ratings sweeps are well upon us? . . .
Maybe not quite as important as the November, February and May sweeps, when audiences are much better, but networks and local stations -- the ones who have something to crow about, anyway -- take them very seriously . . .
The Arbitron sweeps began July 9 and will run through Aug. 5. After 19 nights, as of Sunday, NBC led with a 12.6 rating and a 24 percent audience share, followed by CBS at 11.2/21 and ABC with a 10.8/21 . . .
The Nielsen sweeps began July 10 and run through Aug. 6. After 18 nights, NBC leads with a 12.5/24, followed by CBS at 11.4/22 and ABC with a 10.8/21 (each rating point representing 859,000 TV homes) . . .
Channel 26 will carry the Rehnquist confirmation hearings live today from 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. The station has only "tentative plans" to rebroadcast the hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 11 p.m., perhaps because they'd run all night . . .
Barry Kluger, vice president of press relations for the MTV networks, complains that a series on the possible harmful effects of music videos on the young, currently being aired on Channel 4 news, was done by WNBC in New York "last January" . . .
He thinks the series was "sensational" and "unbalanced" in the first place and says it "should have been updated" after six months on the shelf . . . because new studies have since been published that question the harm of music videos, if any . . .
Jim Van Messel, news director at WRC, another NBC-owned station, said yesterday that "we're very upfront about where the series comes from. The president of MTV appears throughout the three segments and we think it is balanced" . . .
And from our Even Mighty Homer Nods file: The new title for ABC's "Cold Steel & Neon" cop drama set for this fall is "Heart of the City" . . .
Homer, er, Captain Airwaves, mistakenly identified the new title yesterday as "City by Night," which is what the hero of the drama, set in L.A., will roam when ABC sets him loose on us in September . . .
CBS Entertainment's decision to air a three-hour rerun of "Death of a Salesman" last Thursday night against NBC's blockbuster lineup, Bill Cosby et al., earned the network last place in the weekly ratings . . .
For the week ending July 27, NBC was first with a 12.9 rating and a 25 percent audience share. ABC was second at 10.5/20, followed by CBS at 10.2/19 . . .
NBC's magazine, "1986," finished in a tie for 27th place with its second-highest rating since its June 15 debut . . .
In other original programming offered last week, ABC's sitcom pilot, "Father's Day," finished 44th, NBC's "Dalton: Code of Vengeance" was 51st and CBS' "We're Puttin' on the Ritz" tied for 55th . . .
"Death of a Salesman" finished 65th out of 65 programs ranked, with a slim 5.3 rating and a 10 share . . .