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Posts Tagged ‘David Westin’

In Memoir, Former ABC News President David Westin Recalls Iraq Regret, ABC Layoffs

Over his 13 years as ABC News president, David Westin says his biggest regret was in not heeding Peter Jennings’ skepticism about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

“We had all sorts of sources — reliable sources — telling us they were there, absolutely,” says Westin, whose memoir, Exit Interview (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), hits the stands today.

Jennings was not convinced, according to Westin. “I said to him, more than once, ‘No matter what happens, if the U.S. goes in there, they will find WMDs.’ Peter would say, ‘Don’t be so sure.’”

Despite his anchor’s deep expertise in the Middle East, Westin, like most news organizations in the free world, went with the party line. In retrospect, “I wish we’d dropped everything, assigned more people and pushed harder,” he says. “We’d all be better off.”

Westin was at the helm for numerous historic events during his 1997-to-2010 run at ABC – an extraordinary tenure in the modern news era. Behind the scenes, he spent much of his time trying to balance corporate’s demand for more profit with the needs of a world-class news operation.

It was a tough balancing act, even for someone who kept his eye on nine TV monitors on his office wall.

“An important part of my job was to remind the news division it was a business, and we had to be mindful about how we spent our money,” Westin, 59, says. “I also reminded corporate [Disney] that news was more than a business. We made decisions regularly because it was the right thing to do.”

In February 2010, the right thing to do, corporate-wise, was to cut the news division’s 1,500-person staff by a whopping twenty-five percent, mostly through buyouts. It was an ugly day for Westin.

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ABC News Pours The Champagne to Celebrate First ‘GMA’ Weekly Win Since 1995


(l-r) ABC News SVP James Goldston, Josh Elliott, Robin Roberts, ABC News president Ben Sherwood, George Stephanopoulos, Sam Champion, Lara Spencer, GMA EP Tom Cibrowski

More than 200 ABC News staffers packed the 5th floor newsroom this morning for a toast and celebration of “Good Morning America” breaking the “Today” show’s winning streak that lasted 16 years and 16 weeks.

ABC News president Ben Sherwood, who was executive producer of the show when it came within striking distance in 2005, gave two toasts: first to his colleagues at NBC, acknowledging the streak, and a second to his team and all those who came before, including former longtime executives David Westin, Jim MurphyPhyllis McGrady and Shelley Ross, who was EP of the show for more than five years, beginning in 1999.

One longtime ABCNewser emailed, “The energy in the building is electric.” Sherwood, who first joined ABC News in 1989 talked about how before the streak, “We’d win a week, they’d win a week, then we’d win.” The back-and-forth ended on Dec. 11, 1995 when “Today” began its until-now unbroken 852-week winning streak. Sherwood himself jumped to NBC News in 1997 working on “Nightly News” before returning to ABC to oversee “GMA” in 2004. Sherwood talked about how many of the the show’s current staffers were in junior high or high school in 1995. News anchor Josh Elliott had just graduated from college.

Diane Sawyer and Chris Cuomo, former anchors on the show were in attendance while the current team of Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Sam Champion, Lara Spencer and Elliott said a few words.

James Goldston who oversees the show as SVP, as well as Senior EP Tom Cibrowski also spoke. There was a lot of hugging, an insider tells us.

More pictures after the jump…

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ABC News Celebrates 50 Years

No one can put a precise date on when ABC News started. But it was in 1962 that the network established an assignment desk and newsgathering capabilities: the guts of a TV news organization. And so today, ABCNewsers celebrated 50 years of providing news and information to American homes (and now workplaces and mobile devices).

Employees packed ABC’s TV Studios 1 (former home of “Who Wants to Be Millionaire” and 2 (current home of “The Chew”) which were festooned with images of ABC News anchors and reporters past and present. In addition to hundreds who packed the studio, employees from bureaus around the country and the world were patched in for the celebration.

ABC News president Ben Sherwood was the emcee and was joined by two former ABC News presidents: Bill Sheehan (1974-1977) in Washington, DC and David Westin (1997-2010) in New York. Kaycee Freed Jennings, widow of Peter Jennings, also attended.

The celebration included a video lookback, as well as the first (and probably last) Meatball Awards, presented by Lara Spencer. (The award for tightest t-shirt worn during a natural disaster was a three-way tie going to David Muir, Jeffrey Kofman and Matt Gutman.)

The highlight, insiders say, was John Berman‘s “50 Ways.” With his own lyrics, set to the tune of Paul Simon‘s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” Berman belted out the best of ABC News.

“I think the opportunities at ABC News for our youngest and brightest are nearly limitless and our best days are ahead of us,” said Sherwood at the close of the event.

Former ABC News boss David Westin to head up News Licensing Group

Former ABC News president David Westin has been named president and CEO of the News Licensing Group, a digital rights organization established by the board of the Associated Press.

News Licensing will launch this summer with content and data from the AP and more than 1,000 digital publications.

“I said in February that the News Licensing Group will be a game changer for news providers worldwide, and we have in David Westin the right person, respected throughout the news and entertainment industry, to ensure that this happens,” said AP president and CEO Tom Curley.

“News providers will need to work with digital distributors to make sure that this new world works for everyone — for the news organizations, for the distributors and ultimately for the public,” said Westin in a statement. “This is the mission of the News Licensing Group. It is an exciting moment for the news industry, and I’m honored to be part of it.”

Westin was president of ABC News from 1997 until late last year. He is a board member of the AP and in 2009 wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal over the kinds of issues he’ll now be faced with. In this case, the suit and countersuit between the AP and artist Shepard Fairey over Fairey’s artistic take of an AP-licensed photo of Barack Obama.

News release with more on News Licensing Group, after the jump…

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The $500 Million ‘Today’ show question

The AP’s David Bauder tries to make sense of this week’s double whammy at the $500 million (that’s what it earned last year) “Today” show — the reports that one, if not both, of the primary anchors might be leaving when their contracts are up. Bauder talked with two former TV news executives for the story — former ABC News president David Westin and former “GMA” and “Early Show” EP Shelley Ross.

First, Meredith Vieira, and the report this week that she may step aside in September.

“If they proved they could replace Katie Couric without a hiccup, they can replace Meredith without a hiccup,” says Ross.

Easy money is on show veteran Ann Curry as the new co-anchor. Westin says she has consistently tested well with viewers. But, Bauder writes:

If NBC went elsewhere, there’s a good chance they would have two positions to fill: Human nature suggests someone who’s been at the same job for 15 years (as Curry has) and is passed over twice for promotion would want to move on.

The Matt Lauer news is a whole other story.

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ABC News Chief Ben Sherwood: No More Layoffs, But Change Needs to Come to the Broadcast News Division

This morning, new ABC News president Ben Sherwood kicked off ABC’s day of presentations at the Television Critics Association Winter press tour in Pasadena.

Sherwood told the assembled critics that there were no more layoffs in store at the news division, which saw hundreds of employees leave the company through buyouts and layoffs last year.

Sherwood also said he and Disney-ABC TV chief Anne Sweeney were interested in finding some sort of partner for ABC News, be it a cable network like Bloomberg TV or a digital partner like Facebook.

“If we can partner on the digital side or the cable side, we must do that,” Sherwood said, adding with regards to Bloomberg: “How can you not think about partnering with an organization that has had the success Bloomberg has?”

That jives with what Sweeney told Broadcasting & Cable in an interview today(subscription required):

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ABC News Correspondent Abbie Boudreau and Producer Injured While on Assignment

ABC News correspondent Abbie Boudreau (left) and her producer, Mary Bruce are recovering after being involved in a serious car accident near Richmond, Virginia this morning.

Boudreau and Bruce were on their way to cover a U.S. military-related story when the car they were in was rear-ended by a semi. Boudreau, who joined ABC News from CNN last month, and Washington, DC-based Bruce were rushed to a hospital in Richmond where Boudreau is still being treated at this hour. Bruce was treated and released earlier.

In a note to staff, obtained by TVNewser, ABC News president David Westin writes, “our colleagues from the Washington Bureau are with them to make sure that they have everything that they need.”

Ben Sherwood: ‘An insider and outsider there, and that’s what ABC was looking for’

While most industry types were surprised by yesterday’s announcement of Ben Sherwood as ABC News president, Jonathan Wald was not among them.

“Benjie is both an insider and outsider there, and that’s what ABC was looking for,” says Wald, Sherwood’s boss at ‘NBC Nightly News’ in the late ‘90s. “He understands the culture, but he’s breathing fresh air, too.”

A stealth candidate, Sherwood’s name had not surfaced anywhere as a replacement for 13-year president David Westin, scheduled to step down at the end of this month.

On paper, it’s an unusual hire, to say the least. Sherwood, 46, a best-selling writer and digital media entrepreneur, has been out of TV news since 2006.

After two years as exec producer of ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ he returned to California in ’06 to resume his writing career. His 2009 book, ‘The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life,’ was a best-seller.

Ironically, he had left NBC earlier for the same reason. His 2004 novel, ‘The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud,’ became a best seller. The same year, he came back to ABC for a second stint. “I discovered that I could leave the news business, but the news business didn’t leave me,” he said in a 2004 interview.

“Charlie St. Cloud” was adapted to a feature film last summer. Sherwood’s 2000 book, “The Man Who Ate the 747,” is also being developed as a movie and Broadway musical.

“As evidenced by his peripatetic career, Benjie’s open for anything,” says Wald, now e.p. of CNN’s Piers Morgan show, to debut next month. “As another child of television, I see in him a short attention span. He masks it very well.”

Media consultant Victor Neufeld, a 25-year ABC News veteran, acknowledges he was taken aback, at first, when he learned of Sherwood’s appointment.

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What Ben Sherwood Inherits: ‘GMA,’ ‘World News,’ ‘This Week,’ and ‘Nightline’ by the Numbers

Ben Sherwood not only inherits from David Westin (right at ABC News HQ this morning) a smaller ABC News staff then the one he left four years ago, he’ll also be overseeing the network’s big money news shows which have all seen a transformation over the last year; and in most cases ratings declines.

Late last year, Charles Gibson‘s departure set the revolving door in motion: Diane Sawyer left “Good Morning America” for “World News”; George Stephanopoulos left “This Week” for “GMA” and Christiane Amanpour left CNN for “This Week.”

So how have those shows been doing?

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Ben Sherwood: ‘There’s not been a syllable about cuts or more shrinking’



Incoming ABC News president Ben Sherwood and outgoing news boss David Westin this morning at ABC News headquarters as Sherwood was re-introduced to the ABC News staff.

Ben Sherwood takes the reins at ABC News Monday morning, but he’s been observing from the West Coast as it became clear he was the front-runner for the job to succeed David Westin. Westin, who’s held the job for the last 13 years, bid farewell today at a staff meeting at which Sherwood, who’s had two prior stints at ABC News, was re-introduced to ABC Newsers. After that meeting, TVNewser talked with Sherwood about his new job, his return to ABC and the challenges ahead.

TVNewser: What made you want to take this job?

Ben Sherwood: To be perfectly honest — as Anne Sweeney said today — I came in as friend of ABC News. And after my name had surfaced [as a candidate for the job,] she and I sat down to talk about ideas. And as I heard Anne’s vision for ABC News, and ABC News as an indispensable part of the network, I got really excited about the future.

TVNewser: You’ve been away from day-to-day TV news for four years, do you expect a rough transition getting back in?

Sherwood: I flew the red eye to get here so I’m already back on “GMA” hours [Sherwood was EP of the show from 2004-2006.] I’m ready. I’ve been leading a very different life [as an author and public speaker]. This is my third time back to ABC. But it’s a different organization than the one I left. I’ll be here Monday morning ready to go.

TVNewser: What’s the biggest challenge as you see it coming in?

Ben Sherwood: Hard to say. One big challenge is the rapidly changing world of news and information. It’s a challenge for everybody in this industry. Everything is up for grabs. David Westin has done a fantastic job positioning ABC News for the future, especially the digital future. My job is to raise the competitive metabolism even higher, find bigger audiences, global audiences and along the way look at the website and radio and find a way to grow the overall audience.

TVNewser: Any changes you plan to make on any of the shows?

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