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Al Jazeera America Names ABC’s Kate O’Brian President

ABC News President Ben Sherwood sent a memo to the news division announcing that Senior V.P. Kate O’Brian will be the new President of Al Jazeera America. Unlike Politico, Sherwood doesn’t say the move is a testament to ABC. O’Brian started her career at ABC as a 20/20 intern. Sherwood gets pretty personal in the memo, saying, “I will miss the sound of her voice, urgent and measured, calling in the middle of the night, when news is breaking somewhere around the world. In moments of crisis and every day, two principles always guide her: The safety of our people and the excellence of our work.”

See the gushing memo…

I’m writing with exciting and bittersweet news: Kate O’Brian, our good friend and colleague, is leaving ABC News to become President of Al Jazeera America, the new cable network launching next month. More than 30 years ago Kate started at ABC News as a 20/20 intern, and her career has taken her from This Week with David Brinkley to World News and from London to Atlanta and around the world. For many years Kate served as the VP running NewsOne, and her leadership helped expand the relationships between ABC News and the affiliates, a vital resource for our news gathering operations.

In 2007, Kate was named senior vice president for News, overseeing our global news gathering operations, including the Washington Bureau, NewsOne, ABC News Radio and affiliate relations. Kate, along with many of our talented colleagues, managed every imaginable story – and many unimaginable – including the Gabby Giffords shooting, the Arab Spring, the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Aurora shooting, Superstorm Sandy and the tragic events in Newtown.

Kate has won every important award for excellence in journalism. Among them, an Alfred I. DuPont Award as part of the This Week team, an Emmy Award for the 2000 Millennium coverage and a second Alfred I. DuPont and a Peabody Award for 9/11 coverage. Kate was particularly proud when the newsgathering team andentire division were recognized over the past year with the Peabody award for Superstorm Sandy coverage and the Edward R. Murrow award for coverage of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Kate has been a mentor and role model to scores of young people across the news division. On a personal level, I’m deeply grateful to her for helping steer the division through the complex transitions of the last several years. And I will miss the sound of her voice, urgent and measured, calling in the middle of the night, when news is breaking somewhere around the world. In moments of crisis and every day, two principles always guide her: The safety of our people and the excellence of our work.

While we will miss Kate’s insights, judgment and humor, we know that she is stepping into an important role and we wish her very best with this new challenge.

David Reiter and Jon Williams will continue to oversee domestic and foreign coverage reporting directly to me. We will let you know soon when plans are made to celebrate our dear friend. In the meantime, please join me in thanking Kate for more than 30 years of contributions to ABC News. And let’s all congratulate Kate on her new presidency.

Ben

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