Jacques Steinberg has a nice article today about how ABC News is faring as it moves forward in Peter Jennings‘ absence. At its center is Jon Banner, exec producer of “World News Tonight” and its web versopm, “World News Now”). Banner, a 16-year vet of ABC news, had been Jennings’ exec producer from June 2003 and together they had been pushing hard to put Jennings in the lead over NBC’s Brian Williams — until Jennings got sick. Now he’s pushing Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff in a new broadcast that is trying to quickly find its feet and close the widening gap between ABC and NBC (coincidence that Williams started pulling ahead after Labor Day, and Katrina? Likely not). After just a week, Alessandra Stanley isn’t particularly moved, lamenting the loss of that elusive “voice of God” and dismissing the possibility of chemistry between Vargas and Woodruff. That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, Jennings casts a long shadow. Let’s hope it inspires the news team, because they’d best be delivering results soon, per bossman David Westin:
“I don’t like to put timetables on it, but we are not in this to be No. 2,” Mr. Westin said.
That’s the other elephant in the control room.