Kim Godwin Exits ABC News


Kim Godwin, the ABC News president who was the first Black woman to run a broadcast network news operation, is leaving the Disney unit amid increasing concern about the way she was managing the home of shows like “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight.”

Godwin told staffers in a memo Sunday that she planned to “retire from broadcast journalism.” Her command had come under increasing scrutiny since a restructuring of ABC News and Disney’s ABC stations had her reporting directly to Debra OConnell, a Disney business veteran who is seen as a valued operator at the company. OConnell will lead ABC News for the foreseeable future, she told employees Sunday evening.

A Disney spokesperson declined to make executives available for additional comment or to respond to a query about what changes Godwin’s exit might mean for the executive’s immediate direct reports or the management of individual ABC News programs. Godwin’s immediate team includes Stacia Philips Deshishku, ABC News’ executive editor; Derek Medina, an executive vice president who oversees business affairs; and Jose Andino, a vice president who was tasked with organizing specific goals from an “Office of the President.”

People familiar with ABC News think OConnell will ultimately need a new executive to run the organization on a day-to-day basis. Among those who could be viewed as internal candidates are Chad Matthews, who currently oversees ABC’s stations under OConnell; Tom Cibrowski, a former top producer at ABC News who is now general manager of ABC’s San Francisco station KGO; and Simone Swink, the executive producer of “Good Morning America,” who is well-regarded by staffers and who has helped the program make strides on the West Coast.

Godwin, in her memo, praised her career achievements. “After matriculating through j-school at my beloved Florida A&M University, I have been fortunate and blessed enough to have done almost every job there is in this business, including anchor, investigative reporter, news director, field producer, network/special events executive producer and more before moving on to the executive ranks,:” Godwin said in a note on Sunday. “Anyone passionate about what we do knows there’s no other business like it, so this was not an easy or quick decision. But after considerable reflection, I’m certain it’s the right one for me as I look to the future and prioritize what’s most important for me and my family.”

While Godwin sought to improve the working atmosphere at ABC News, where anchors are known to feud with one another and jockey for positions as well as interviews, and launched a new studio devoted to programs for Disney’s streaming outlets like Hulu, she became accused of remaining too distant from the staff and the unit’s many properties, which include daytime staples such as “The View” and “The Tamron Hall Show” in addition to the evening- and morning-news mainstays.

In recent months, “Good Morning America,” arguably the flagship show of the news division, has seen its standing among viewers between 25 and 54 — the demographic most coveted by advertisers — shrink noticeably. For the five days starting April 22, for example, “GMA” captured an average of 497,000 viewers in that age range — just 49,000 ahead of “CBS Mornings,” traditionally the perennial third-place entrant in broadcast TV’s morning wars. NBC’s “Today,” meanwhile, captured an average of 659,.000. “GMA” remains, however, the nation’s most-watched broadcast morning news show.

ABC News is smaller than many of its rivals, including the news operations owned by NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery’s CNN. But the operation often punches above its weight by focusing on getting behind the scenes of compelling stories of struggle and landing in-depth interviews with celebrities and cultural newsmakers. In recent months, there has been a new focus on harnessing some of its best-known anchors, like George Stephanopoulos or Robin Roberts, to create programs aimed at streaming audiences.

And yet, NBC News, Fox News Channel, CBS News, and even CNN have won more attention for their streaming efforts. ABC News offers many hours of live coverage and has recently added more, including programs with Kayna Whitworth, Linsey Davis, Kyra Phillips, and Diane Macedo.

OConnell pledged to keep ABC News moving forward during a time of transition. “From morning through daytime, evening and beyond, this team stands ready 24/7 to serve our nation with the news, people, and events that shape our world, she said, adding that “I’m looking forward to working with the leadership team as we forge a new path forward together.”

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