Former ABC News Washington Bureau Chief George Watson Dies at 86

By A.J. Katz 

Sad news concerning a member of the ABC News family: Former ABC News Washington DC bureau chief and vp George Watson died Thursday morning at the age of 86.

He spent 40 years as a TV news correspondent, producer and network executive.

Watson joined ABC News all the way back in 1962 as a radio news writer. He would later become a Moscow and London-based correspondent and bureau chief, reporting from across EMEA for more than a decade.


After returning to the U.S. in 1975, Watson was named ABC News White House correspondent. A year later, he shifted into an executive role, becoming the network’s Washington bureau, a role he held on two separate occasions, spanning 12 years.

In 1980, Watson left ABC News to become vp and managing editor of CNN, where he was involved in the channel’s launch and early development. Watson was the executive-in-charge of political party convention coverage, and reported on-air during CNN’s first political convention in 1980. He also moderated three one-hour interview programs on a weekly basis for the new network.

Watson returned to ABC News a year later, and as a New York-based vp of standards and practices. During this time, he created and produced Viewpoint, a program which essentially provided a forum for criticism and analysis of the TV news business.

Watson formally retired as Washington bureau chief in 1993 and for the next eight years, returned to on-air reporting as senior contributing editor, delivering commentary and analysis for both radio and the network’s late night broadcast, World News Now.

Here’s the letter Godwin sent to ABC News staff on Thursday:

ABC News —

I have some sad news to share. George Watson, former ABC News Washington bureau chief and vice president, died peacefully this morning, June 1, at home at age 86.

Throughout George’s long and storied career, he had many roles at ABC News. He first walked through the doors in 1962 as a radio news writer. He served as correspondent and bureau chief in Moscow and London, where he covered major events in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. His reporting for the 1971 ABC News documentary, “Terror in Northern Ireland,” won the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Foreign Affairs Documentary.

After returning to the United States, George was named ABC News’ White House correspondent. Soon after, he became Washington bureau chief and vice president, a role he held two different times, spanning 12 years total. He also worked as vice president in New York, where he was the first network executive responsible for overseeing the policies, standards and practices for news programs, and developed and produced the award-winning program “Viewpoint.” In 1980, George spent a year at CNN. He was also director of the Committee to Protect Journalists for a decade and a longtime member of the National Press Club. He graduated from Harvard University, where he was managing editor of The Harvard Crimson and received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Our thoughts are with his wife, Ellen, and all who knew and loved him.

Please join me in remembering George and honoring the lasting mark he made on journalism.