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?
Sherwood: I’ve been here 18 hours. It would be presumptuous for me sitting in Los Angeles to say, “I’m going to change this or I’m going to change that.” Give me some time and we’ll sit down and talk about the future.
TVNewser: Along those lines, TVNewser got a tip this morning that “This Week” is going to be moving to New York. Christiane Amanpour lives here, James Goldston who now oversees the show is based here. Do you see that happening?
Sherwood: Again, I haven’t had a chance to see the playbook. Monday morning I’m going to start a bunch of meetings. “This Week” lives in Washington, DC right now and that’s what I know.
TVNewser: ABC saw massive staff cuts earlier this year, do you anticipate more cuts, or do you plan to add in certain areas?
Sherwood: In all of my conversations, I’ve only heard about the company’s desire to create a stronger news division with a bigger reach. There’s not been a syllable about cuts or more shrinking. The changes that were made, the transformation, was to position the division for strength and growth.
TVNewser: We asked our Twitter followers to send in questions. One wrote: ABC tends to lean to the left in both elections and general reporting. Will [the network] finally move more central?
Sherwood: I challenge that assumption and I think that ABC News shoots right down the middle. So there is no need for adjustment.