Who is Ben Sherwood? Depends who you ask

By Chris Ariens Comment

The New York Times Sunday Styles section will have a profile of new ABC News president Ben Sherwood. The piece examines Sherwood’s on-again, off-again relationship with network news. ABC in the 1990s, NBC in the early 2000s. Back to ABC in the mid-2000s — a break — and back again this year as chief of the news division.

From a tragedy in his early days at ABC:

On Aug. 12, 1992, he was part of a two-car caravan from “Primetime Live” traveling along “Sniper Alley” in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on assignment with Sam Donaldson, one of the show’s anchors; David Kaplan, Mr. Donaldson’s longtime producer; and Yugoslavia’s Prime Minister, Milan Panic. At Sarajevo’s airport, Mr. Donaldson and Mr. Panic piled into an armored vehicle. They were trailed by a Volkswagen van carrying Mr. Sherwood, wearing a bulletproof vest and shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr. Kaplan, who was unprotected. As the van sped along, a sniper’s 9-millimeter bullet ripped through the back of the van and pierced Mr. Kaplan’s back, fatally severing his pulmonary artery.

To his departure from NBC News in 2002 where he was #2 at “Nightly News”:

“One of the things about my path is that there are moments where I want to go do something different,” Mr. Sherwood said. [Tom] Brokaw remembered Mr.

Sherwood’s departure differently. “He didn’t stay because he didn’t get the No. 1 job at ‘Nightly News,’” he said. Mr. Sherwood responded: “My recollection and Tom’s are in disagreement.”

But throughout the Times profile, Laura M. Holson weaves decades old and more recent criticisms of Sherwood — “still the subject of caustic takedowns,” she writes — from a 1988 Spy magazine profile by Andrew Sullivan to a anonymous video posted not long after he was named ABC News boss.

Back in his office, at times absently rubbing his hands together as if washing them with soap and water, Mr. Sherwood clearly did not want to talk about whether he deserved to run ABC News. He seemed more comfortable discussing the charmed youth soured by the Sullivan piece.

“What I do know about that time,” Mr. Sherwood said, “was I was a guy with a lot to learn.”

For his part, Sullivan says he feels badly his story, “has unfairly dogged him all these years.”