As James Goldston Officially Exits ABC News, Company Sets Interim Management

By A.J. Katz 

James Goldston officially left ABC News last week after a 17-year run at the network, including the last seven years as news division president. His exit came a few days ahead of the March 31 departure date announced in January.

Disney/ABC Television chairman Peter Rice and ABC News executive vice president Derek Medina are leading the news division as the search for permanent ABC News president continues.

Shortly after Goldston announced his plans to exit, we compiled a list of prime candidates for this celebrated role, including svp of integrated content strategy Marie Nelson, and ABC Owned Television Stations president Wendy McMahon.

Other intriguing candidates include The Late Show with Stephen Colbert co-executive producer Chris Licht. He is well-known in TV news circles for his stints as executive producer of CBS This Morning, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe before that. There’s also Steve Capus, the former NBC News president and executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley. Capus ran NBC News for eight years (2005-2013), executive produced CBS Evening News and was the network’s executive editor for nearly four years (May 2014-January 2018). Why not make the broadcast trifecta?

Back to Goldston: in an internal memo staff sent on Jan. 28, he noted that he had planned to leave the network after what had been an extremely intense election season.  “After a great deal of reflection over the last few months, I’m ready for a new adventure,” Goldston wrote.

The British-born news executive named president of ABC News in April 2014, replacing Ben Sherwood who had been promoted to co-president of Disney/ABC TV at the time. Goldston moved to the top of the ABC News heap after a two-year stint as svp of content and development.

Yes, the Barbara Fedida fiasco hit ABC News hard last summer, but the network achieved many positives during Goldston’s tenure.

In April 2012, he was the senior executive producer of Good Morning America when after 16 consecutive years as the No. 2 morning show, it finally bypassed NBC’s Today as the most-watched morning show. Additionally, five months into his term as news division president, he tapped David Muir to be the anchor of ABC World News Tonight. The newscast has since moved past NBC Nightly News into first place in all key measurements.

The news division has won the Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence five times, and received various Peabody and Emmy awards under Goldston’s leadership.

Goldston joined ABC News in 2004 from Britain’s ITV. Following a stint as senior producer of prime time specials and investigations, he was promoted to executive producer of Nightline, a position he held until 2011 until moving over to GMA.

On March 25, Goldston sent one last note to ABC News staff, obtained by TVNewser:

All,

 

It really struck me this morning as a small group of us re-assembled in TV-3 that I hadn’t seen so many of you for an entire year. It’s been painful for all of us, being separated from our colleagues, and our friends, and our families.

 

Your resilience in the face of a once in a century global catastrophe has been extraordinary:

 

A year ago more than 80% of our staff began working remotely.

 

Over the course of a single weekend 12 months ago, the team expanded a half hour show about the pandemic into a daily broadcast now known as GMA3: What You Need to Know.

 

Longform stepped up to provide the network with 150 remotely produced hours in primetime.

 

The All-America team partnered with teams across ABC News and published over 120 Turning Point segments, featuring a month-long takeover of Nightline, over 50 digital reports and 30+ hours of ABC Audio content.

 

We launched Soul of a Nation, an historic broadcast milestone – the first primetime newsmagazine that aims to put Black life in America front and center for all Americans.

 

We covered the most extraordinary political stories of a generation with excellence.

 

And most importantly of all, you looked after each other, and cared for each other, and kept each other going day after day, week after week, month after agonizing month. And now finally, we can start to plan to joyfully see each other once again.

 

I mentioned this morning the next epic battle of our time. To fight back against the forces of falsehood, the ‘infodemic’ that has accompanied this pandemic. I came to this country 17 years ago to work as a journalist because the Founding Fathers of this nation had the brilliant foresight to draft the First Amendment, protecting our fundamental individual rights. With my family, I became a citizen here because of an abiding belief in the power of  American democracy. And as I step away from leading ABC News, I remain optimistic that with your hard work and diligence and dedication, the great journalists here will help defeat this scourge of misinformation.

 

It is our essential mission.

 

Please do stay in touch.

 

With love and admiration to you all,

 

James

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