CBS exec Kim Godwin poised to become ABC News president
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ABC wants Kim Godwin to run its news operation responsible for shows like “Good Morning America” with George Stephanopoulos and “The View” with Whoopi Goldberg, sources tell The Post.
The CBS news executive has been offered the role in hopes she can help revamp the news network’s troubled culture, which has been plagued by complaints of poor communication, a lack of diversity, feelings of distrust among staffers and oversized personalities running roughshod over the place, sources said.
“The biggest talent are the biggest bullies in the building. She will have to stand up to them,” said one former ABC staffer who described the work environment at the Disney-owned broadcast news network as “divisive, cutthroat and ‘Shark Tank’-like.”
Godwin could, however, face some resistance in her new role given that she hails from CBS, whose major news shows — “CBS This Morning” with Gayle King and “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell” — currently rank last place among the major broadcast networks.
“The challenge she is going to have is that culturally all these guys like George Stephanopoulos and David Muir and all the big talent are going to say, ‘Why did we go outside and hire someone from CBS where their s*** is not working’ to tell us what to do?” said a second source familiar with ABC’s culture.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” with Stephanopoulos and “World News Tonight with David Muir” both hold the No. 1 spot for their respective timeslots.
If she accepts the job, Godwin stands to be the first black woman to run a broadcast network news operation. And that could go a long way to remedying diversity complaints that exploded into the public view last year when the second-in-command to ABC News’ then-chief James Goldston exited the company amid allegations of racially insensitive remarks.
Goldston — who has also been criticized internally for failing to act on a 2016 recommendations to hire more black producers — abruptly vacated the top job at ABC News in January after seven years.
Despite the apparent diversity victory, other problems remain, including talent accustomed to going over their bosses’ heads and a lack of teamwork, sources said.
“This thing about going around the boss to the bigger boss will have to stop,” the first source said, adding that ABC talent has been known to “throw a temper tantrum if they didn’t get what they want, or threaten or trash or leak.”
“Kim Godwin has two choices,” added the second source. “She can keep the high-powered talent happy, or she can show up and say, ‘I’m the boss now and the new sheriff in town’ and clean up the toxicity left from James Goldston’s reign.”
After Goldston left in January, CNN reported on a high-profile talent blowup involving Stephanopoulos and Muir that reportedly required intervention by Disney executive chairman Bob Iger.
Iger flew across the country earlier this year, according to the report, to broker peace after Stephanopoulos threatened to quit. At issue was the role of “chief anchor,” which Stephanopoulos carried for years before it was suddenly passed on to Muir.
The problem, sources said, was that Goldston had told Stephanopolous it was time to retire the role of “chief anchor.” But Stephanopolous later learned that Muir was being given the “chief anchor” in spirit but not in title, and he felt deceived by Goldston.
“James would say very little to people so they would think whatever they needed to think,” said a person familiar with the situation. “He would say very little to people to get them to agree and then he would deal with it when it would become a problem later by throwing money at it or shuffling people around.”
His communication style created problems with other ABC News talent, including Whoopi Goldberg, one inside source said.
The actress and moderator of “The View” felt that as the senior member of the popular talk show, she should be consulted about who was picked to sit at the table with her, the source said.
“She gave ideas and she never would hear anything back,” this person said. It turned Goldberg off so much she ultimately stopped talking to Goldston in any meaningful way, this person said.
“He would come to her dressing room and she would just sit there and smile at him. She wouldn’t actually utter words.”
“I don’t think he afforded her the kind of respect that she felt she should have been afforded,” the source said. “A lot of it comes down to respect. People want to feel that they are heard and they are seen.”
Goldston could not be immediately reached for comment. Goldberg didn’t return requests for comment, and ABC declined to comment.
One source close to ABC, however, defended Goldston’s diversity record, saying he held a series of meetings with black anchors and correspondents starting in 2016 after a letter was sent asking for more black show producers. One of the developments that came out of the meeting was the 2019 hiring of Marie Nelson from PBS to the new role of senior vice president of integrated content strategy, which is tasked with building the company’s multicultural content.
ABC seems to be aware of the problem. Since Goldston left, ABC’s chairman of general entertainment content, Peter Rice, has been so focused on finding a replacement to fix the culture that he often spent the bulk of his interviews with job candidates talking about it, sources said.
“Peter hates that ABC is No. 1 and no one wants to work there,” said someone who interviewed for the job. “That was probably 80 percent of the conversation — how to change the culture.”
“They are looking for a change agent,” the candidate said. “While they credit James [Goldston] with building a winning division, he is also blamed for cultural issues, including diversity.”
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