Disney Expresses Frustration with ABC News President Kim Godwin's Leadership

Disney leadership is dissatisfied with ABC News President Kim Godwin's management, citing concerns over her hands-off approach and lack of strategic direction. Debra OConnell, appointed to oversee ABC News, is assessing the situation and considering leadership changes, with staff expecting imminent action.

Safak Costu
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Disney Expresses Frustration with ABC News President Kim Godwin's Leadership

Disney Expresses Frustration with ABC News President Kim Godwin's Leadership

Disney leadership is voicing increasing dissatisfaction with ABC News President Kim Godwin's management of the news division. The concerns have intensified in the wake of anchor T.J. Marciano's recent departure from the network. In February 2024, Disney appointed veteran media executive Debra OConnell to a newly created role overseeing ABC News.

Why this matters: The leadership crisis at ABC News has significant implications for the quality and credibility of journalism in the US, since the network's editorial direction and talent management influence the way news is presented to a largeaudience. Moreover, the potential changes in leadership could have a ripple effect on the broader media landscape, influencing the way news organizations operate and prioritize their content.

OConnell has been thoroughly assessing the current state of ABC News, gathering input from a wide range of staff members. Sources close to the situation reveal that OConnell has been "less than impressed" with what she has discovered under Godwin's leadership. More than 20 individuals within and connected to ABC News have expressed grievances about Godwin's hands-off approach, lack of strategic direction, removal of talent-relations leadership, and the formation of an inner circle that has left many employees feeling alienated.

A network insider confided to CNN, "She knew it was bad, but I don't think she knew how bad it was." OConnell is seen internally as a problem solver who is not afraid to confront issues head-on. She has openly acknowledged the missteps she believes Godwin has made and is discreetly seeking guidance from industry experts on who should be placed in key leadership positions at the network.

OConnell has also made preliminary inquiries with potential candidates who may be interested in assuming the role of network president in a post-Godwin scenario. Ninety days after OConnell took the helm, staff members are speculating that changes could be imminent on May 14. However, the precise timeline for any leadership transitions remains uncertain at this juncture.

Godwin's absence from a daily editorial meeting on Thursday further stoked speculation among ABC News employees who are eager for new leadership. A media executive familiar with ABC News remarked, "It is obvious she no longer has the confidence of the newsroom." Under Godwin's tenure, ABC News has grappled with various challenges, including the vacant head of talent position, the exit of key editorial stars like Jonathan Greenberger to POLITICO, the decline of "Good Morning America"'s ratings dominance, and the mismanagement of the relationship between "GMA3" hosts T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach.

Some staff members have criticized Godwin's self-promotional style, arguing that it overlooks the serious purpose of thenews division. Her leadership approach has been characterized as"hands-off"and has fostered a"culture of fear"among ABC News staff. The tensions between Godwin and OConnell have been further compounded by Disney CEO Bob Iger's remarks last summer about the possibility of selling ABC because waning linear TV audiences are contributing to the uncertainty and unease within the news division.

As OConnell's evaluation progresses, the future of ABC News remains uncertain. An individual acquainted with the internal dynamics of ABC News emphasized, "She has to take swift moves. People there are restless. They are extremely frustrated." The power dynamics between Godwin and OConnell will have significant ramifications for the direction and leadership of the news organization in the months ahead.

Both Disney and ABC News have declined to comment on the matter. Ninety days into her tenure, all attention is focused on OConnell and the potential changes she may implement to address the leadership issues and steer ABC News in a new direction amidst the rapidly evolving media environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Disney leadership is dissatisfied with ABC News President Kim Godwin's management.
  • Debra OConnell, appointed in Feb 2024, is assessing ABC News and gathering staff input.
  • OConnell is "less than impressed" with Godwin's leadership, citing hands-off approach and lack of direction.
  • OConnell is seeking guidance on new leadership positions and potential candidates to replace Godwin.
  • Changes to ABC News leadership are expected, with staff speculating on a May 14 timeline.