Contrary to the gladiator’s code, those at ABC News who are about to die are not saluting the emperor.
With a staff reduction of up to 25 percent looming, many of the troops are unhappy that news division chief David Westin last week signed expensive outsider Christiane Amanpour to anchor “This Week”. The CNN star begins in August.
“In general, people are too demoralized to care,” says a veteran ABC correspondent, speaking on condition of anonymity because he may be among those laid off if there aren’t enough voluntary buyouts.
“The appointment of Amanpour is a sideshow,” he continues. “The future of a Sunday morning talk show is trivial to people who believe they have no future at ABC News.”
It’s not personal. No one disputes Amanpour’s enormous talent, impeccable credentials or suitability for the job.
What hurts those whose jobs are on the bubble is the appearance that ABC is robbing Peter (them) to pay Paul (Fill in any big name here. It happens to be Amanpour).
“While we are all deeply mindful of the transformation taking place at ABC News, the hiring of Christiane speaks directly to our commitment to serious journalism and serious journalists,” says a network spokesman.
“The opportunity to hire Christiane Amanpour doesn’t come along often, if ever, and we couldn’t be happier.”
Meanwhile, some staffers are learning through re-defined job postings – for cheaper, jack-of-all-trades “backpack journalists” – that they will probably be losing their jobs.
With tongue firmly in cheek, ABC Dallas-based correspondent Ryan Owens writes on his Facebook page: “Welcome Christiane. Glad to have you onboard. Btw, can you shoot and edit too? It’s all the rage…”
ABC White House ace Jake Tapper, frontrunner for “This Week” until Amanpour dropped into the picture a few weeks ago, isn’t talking. He’s disappointed, newsroom insiders say, but he’s manning up to keep the seat warm for Amanpour, whom he admires.
“Of all the people who should be aggrieved, it’s Tapper,” says network news analyst Andrew Tyndall. “He knows politics and he’s absolutely qualified. But if celebrity was an indispensable component in the decision, he’s not qualified. He needs more seasoning.”
The short-term Sunday gig can only work to Tapper’s advantage. With the added exposure, his stock will be even more valuable when his contract expires in 2012.
Will Amanpour’s international focus play on the Washington-centric Sunday circle? Some say it’s a brilliant move that will distinguish ABC from the pack. Others, like Tyndall, aren’t so sure.
“Viewers think of that timeslot as ‘inside the Beltway and dueling politicians,’ not diplomacy, globalization and multi-culturalism. Also, Amanpour is a correspondent, not an interviewer.”
Fox News’ Chris Wallace has some advice for the global war zone veteran.
“She will discover the ways of Washington are more complicated and sometimes more dangerous than foreign capitals. But she is a first-rate reporter and will provide stiff competition.”
(This story was also reported by Chris Ariens)