ABC News president James Goldston recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie for what was a rather wide ranging conversation. Goldston, ABC News president since 2014 and a native Brit who became an American citizen earlier this year, was asked about the future of Good Morning America, ABC News ratings, Megyn Kelly, and if the Trump administration’s attacks on the news media impact his job.
Goldston on the future of GMA:
Robin Roberts is doing specials. Strahan still has his Fox Sports job and hosts a game show. When you look ahead to GMA in five years, are George Stephanopoulos, Roberts and Strahan still your anchors?
Gosh, at the moment we take all of these things day by day. But I very much hope so. This is a formidable winning team, and as long as they’re happy in the work and succeeding in the work, long may it continue.
There has been speculation about Roberts transitioning from GMA to a daytime show.
Robin is the beating heart of that show, and she has a very unique position in American culture now. And she’s already doing all kinds of things. She has a production company that is doing really interesting work.
So that’s your team?
That’s our team.
For the foreseeable future?
Goldston answers a question about declining ratings for the morning newscasts, an issue not unique to GMA, but also an issue for Today. CBS This Morning is mostly down year-over-year as well.
The ratings for Good Morning America were down again last season, as were Today’s. And CBS This Morning has started to plateau. What is going on in morning news?
Look, the first thing I want to say about Good Morning America is, we’re going into our sixth year as the number-one show in the morning. But one has to recognize that habits are changing in the morning. The first button that everyone would push, up until relatively recently, was to turn on their television. Now the first button everyone pushes is on their phone. That’s a big, systemic change. The show’s doing a good job of adapting to that. But we have to recognize that some of those basic functions in the morning have changed. So we have to build a deep connection with our anchors. You need meaningful, exclusive journalism that you’re not going to get somewhere else. And you need to have that deep connection with the audience so they want to turn the show on every day.
What does Goldston think of Megyn Kelly’s new program?
Megyn is a tough and tenacious reporter. They need to be patient. These shows take time to grow and evolve. And I’m sure they will be patient with her.
Goldston on World News Tonight’s audience:
World News Tonight beat Nightly News last season among total viewers. But ABC News’ average viewer is 64.5 years old. Are you worried that young people aren’t learning the habit of 6:30 p.m. appointment viewing?
That’s been true for a long time. But at the same time, World News Tonight and ABC News as a whole can reach users here and all around the world in gigantic numbers in a way that we never could before. We will hit for the first time this year 10 billion video views across all of our nonlinear platforms. It’s an enormous number of people interacting with our work and with our journalism.
His thoughts on Pres. Trump and his attacks on the news media:
How has the chaotic Trump administration affected your job?
It’s been intense. I don’t agree with this notion that it’s fundamentally different to other news cycles. Our approach has been to play this straight down the line. This is the most fascinating political story for a generation. And I personally am in it every day in every detail.
Doesn’t it bother you?
We will always defend the reputation of the news division against all comers, against anyone. But our best defense is always the work that we do.