James Goldston announced Thursday that his nearly seven-year run as president of ABC News will end on March 31. Goldston spent a total of 17 years at ABC, rising to news division president in April 2014.
Goldston’s tenure as head honcho had highs (World News Tonight overtaking NBC Nightly News; ABC News earning five Murrows for overall excellence; Peabody and Emmy awards, etc.) and a significant low (see: tumultuous exit of former talent chief Barbara Fedida in July 2020).
Walt Disney Company TV chairman Peter Rice announced in a separate note that he is establishing what is being called an “Office of the President” with Goldston and five ABC News executives to search for the next president of the company’s news division.
It sounds as though the company will be casting a wide net in its search for next ABC News president, looking at people both inside and outside the company. Here’s who we think could be prime candidates for this celebrated role:
- Derek Medina, evp of ABC News. Medina is a 22-year veteran of the network, and was promoted in October. “He will manage our operational efforts and growth strategies and work with me and all our leaders on advancing the culture,” Goldston said in a statement last fall. Medina oversees ABC News’ operations, business affairs, marketing, news practices, news administration, audio, insights and NewsOne teams. He joined ABC in 1998, as a director for business affairs and steadily moved up the ranks, adding greater oversight and responsibilities to his portfolio. Medina would also be the first person of color to serve as president of ABC News.
- Kim Godwin, CBS News evp of news. Godwin is one of the most experienced news executives working today. The NABJ recently honored her “for being a strong newsroom leader, for being an advocate for stories about communities in the country that might have been overlooked, for her work to create a diverse newsroom, and her focus on identifying—and advocating for—young journalists throughout their careers.” Since joining CBS News in 2007, Godwin has served as CBS News’ executive director for development and diversity and a senior broadcast producer of the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, before being named evp of news. She was also the interim ep of The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell before former The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer ep Jay Shaylor took the reins on a permanent basis in 2019. Godwin, who has won multiple Murrows, Emmys and duPonts, would become the first woman of color to run a broadcast network news division.
- Wendy Fisher, ABC News vp of newsgathering. Fisher oversees the assignment of all newsgathering resources across every platform. In 2018, she was promoted to her current position from her previous role as ABC News’ first executive editor of news content. She has called ABC News home for 30 years, and would be the news division’s first woman president.
- Marie Nelson, ABC News svp, integrated content strategy. Nelson is an ABC News newbie, having joined the network in summer 2019. When announcing Nelson’s arrival, Goldston said, “Marie will work closely with leaders across the news division to strengthen our brand with multicultural audiences. She’ll help unify our efforts to diversify our content so it’s even more robust and identify opportunities to better connect with and understand our viewers, readers and listeners.” Nelson, who is based out of D.C., joined ABC News from PBS, where she served as vp of news, public affairs and independent film. In that capacity, Nelson led strategy for the public broadcaster’s programming, including NewsHour, Frontline, POV and Independent Lens. Nelson would be the first woman of color to lead a broadcast network news division.
- Janelle Rodriguez, svp, NBC Nightly News, NBC News Now and breaking news specials. Rodriguez has seemingly done it all at NBC News since arriving from CNN in 2014—from her role as svp of editorial, to leading MSNBC dayside, and now her current role overseeing the flagship newscast and the streaming news service. Unless NBC News decides to make a change at the top in the near future, Rodriguez might not be able to rise any further, now that Rashida Jones has been tapped to replace Phil Griffin as MSNBC president, effective March 1, and we don’t know if/when Noah Oppenheim might leave NBC News. ABC shouldn’t be against looking outside of the company, and Rodriguez has as much experience as anyone. Plus, she would become the first Hispanic woman to lead an English language news network.
- Wendy McMahon, ABC Owned Television Stations Group president. McMahon oversees eight Disney-owned and operated local stations, and those highly-rated 6 p.m. Eyewitness News broadcasts have most certainly played a role in lifting World News Tonight with David Muir to a No. 1 ranking on the national level. Before stepping into her current role as local stations chief, McMahon was head of digital for ABC owned stations. Based out of L.A., McMahon was the NAB’s Digital Leadership Award recipient in 2019.
- Phil Griffin, outgoing MSNBC president. He is leaving MSNBC at the end of February; Goldston is leaving ABC News on March 31. The timing could work. One of the most celebrated executives in cable news history, Griffin actually started his NBC News career 35 years ago as a producer on Today, and has been with MSNBC for 25 years–since its founding.
- Ken Strickland, NBC News vp and Washington D.C. bureau chief. Few executives are as well-versed in the intersection of television and politics as Strickland. Currently NBC’s Washington bureau chief, Strickland joined NBC in 1995 as an associate producer for Dateline NBC. He was named White House producer in 1997 and later was NBC’s producer on Capitol Hill, and has continued to rise through the ranks ever since. Strickland would be the first Black man to serve as president of ABC News.
- Steve Capus, former NBC News president and CBS News executive editor/Evening News with Scott Pelley ep. 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? One would assume ABC News will gauge the longtime TV newser’s interest in the opening.
- Subrata De, Vice News evp & global head of programming and development. De leads Vice News’ long-form unit and oversees development, programming and editorial staffing. She started at Vice in 2018 as ep of Vice on HBO, the weekly newsmagazine. Prior to Vice News, she served as ABC News’ vp of newsgathering, where she oversaw domestic, foreign and digital coverage and helped launch ABC News Features. Needless to say, she’s very familiar with the organization. She has also worked at MSNBC as ep of Andrea Mitchell Reports of MSNBC, and previously at NBC News as a senior producer on NBC Nightly News. De would not only be the first woman to lead ABC News, but would also be the first woman of color to lead a broadcast news division.
- Michael Bass, CNN evp of U.S. programming. Rumors have been swirling for a while now about CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker stepping down from his role at the company in Q1 of this year. Bass, Zucker’s longtime lieutenant going back to their NBC days, would be a natural successor. However, if Zucker decides to stick around, perhaps there be some mutual interest between Bass and ABC. CNN’s U.S. programming has been setting ratings records in recent months, and Bass oversees that content. He also has a ton of experience in the world of broadcast news, although not at ABC. He left NBC in 2001 after stints working on Today and NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, to take over as the ep of CBS’s The Early Show. He returned to NBC in 2007 in a business development role and joined Katie Couric’s syndicated show in 2012, which Zucker executive produced.