ABC News’ President, Kim Godwin, to Step Down

The first Black woman to run a broadcast news division, Ms. Godwin had a rocky tenure defined by infighting and damaging leaks.

Kim Godwin was the first Black woman to run a broadcast news division.Credit…Arturo Holmes/WireImage

Benjamin MullinJohn Koblin

Kim Godwin, the president of ABC News, told employees on Sunday night that she was leaving the network, capping a tumultuous three-year tenure.

In an email to employees, Ms. Godwin said that she reached her decision to depart after a period of “considerable reflection.”

“Anyone who’s passionate about what we do knows there’s no other business like it, so this was not an easy or quick decision,” Ms. Godwin said in her note. “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,” she added.

Ms. Godwin, the first Black woman to run a broadcast news division, told employees she was planning on leaving broadcast journalism altogether.

Her departure comes at a delicate moment, as ABC faces a competitive election, a chaotic news cycle as well as an increasingly difficult economic landscape for broadcast news divisions throughout the industry.

Ms. Godwin’s leadership role had been imperiled for some time. Nearly three months ago, Disney, ABC’s parent company, effectively demoted her by tapping a company veteran, Debra OConnell, to oversee a new division that included all of ABC News as well as local stations.

At the time, Ms. Godwin retained her title and had signed a contract extension, but she was still losing support within her newsroom. Ms. OConnell told employees on Sunday night that she would continue to oversee ABC News in the interim “as we forge a new path forward together.”

Over the last couple of years, ABC News has had no shortage of headaches.

The network’s morning show, “Good Morning America,” has gone through a rough patch, having lost in a key ratings demographic — adults under the age of 54 — to an archrival, NBC’s “Today,” for several months.

Worse, “CBS Mornings,” normally the also-ran in the morning show race, has bested “G.M.A.” in the key ratings demographic several times going back to December, a highly unusual development.

Last year, ABC News parted ways with the “GMA3” anchors T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, culminating a weekslong tabloid spectacle after the anchors were revealed to be romantically involved. Ms. Godwin initially kept the two on the air — only to soon reverse course. Mr. Holmes and Ms. Robach left the network a couple of months later.

During Ms. Godwin’s tenure, senior executives at ABC News were ousted, including some who were involved with news gathering and talent relations. In the process, some staff employees grew increasingly concerned about her leadership style.

The corporate calculus also shifted for Ms. Godwin. A year after she was appointed president, the person who hired her, Peter Rice, was dismissed from his high-ranking job at Disney. Months later, the person who fired Mr. Rice, the former Disney chief executive Bob Chapek, was himself fired by the company’s board, ushering in the return of the longtime Disney chairman, Bob Iger.

Suddenly, Ms. Godwin had two new bosses, both of whom are known for the strong relationships they cultivate with talent: Mr. Iger and Dana Walden, the co-chairman of Disney Entertainment, who succeeded Mr. Rice.

Ms. Godwin did have supporters in the industry, including some who saw racial bias in the criticism of her leadership. On Saturday, the day before her departure but amid reports of her losing confidence in the newsroom, the National Association of Black Journalists released a statement in support of Ms. Godwin. It expressed concern over news articles “written with the intention of undermining the leadership of the first Black woman to take the helm of a global news organization.”

“N.A.B.J. will not be silent about what we believe is unfair treatment, nor will we stand idly by and watch the violation of basic journalism principles used to diminish such a historic moment for Black women in news leadership,” the statement said.

Like much of the traditional media industry, broadcast news has faced difficult challenges in recent years. The rise of video streaming, combined with the decline in traditional TV viewership, has put additional pressure on executives in charge of network news divisions, as they seek to salvage their traditional audiences and experiment with new distribution channels.

Roy Walsh

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