ABC plans another face-lift for ‘GMA’

News chief keeping plans secret

SAN ANTONIO — Another round of changes could be in the works for “Good Morning America,” ABC News topper David Westin hinted Wednesday.

Speaking via satellite to a closed-door meeting of news directors of ABC affils gathered here for the annual Radio and TV News Directors Assn. confab, Westin conceded the Alphabet web’s struggling ayem show still wasn’t working, despite the addition within the past year of anchors Lisa McRee and Kevin Newman and a new producer, Shelley Lewis.

“He admitted it was still a problem and said there are changes that have to be made,” said one news director who attended the meeting.

Westin’s comments to affils would seem to represent a shift from his public line of the last few months, which has been that the web planned to be patient with “GMA” and allow viewers time to discover the recently revamped broadcast.

Despite his concession that “GMA” was still broken, Westin did not tell affils what changes he might be considering or when those changes would take place.

“He said he had concrete ideas and deadlines for implementing them, but he didn’t tell us what they were,” grumbled one news director from a midsize ABC affil.

The continuing crisis at “GMA” dominated Westin’s Q&A session with affils, according to several news directors who attended the meeting. The breakfastcast’s woes have also been one of the main topics of conversation among affils in their informal chats with each other.

Also generating mild interest was ABC News’ tardiness in signing on the air Monday morning to cover the release of President Clinton’s grand jury testimony. Aware that the release of the tape containing the testimony was going to be delayed, the web decided to come on nearly 15 minutes after CBS and NBC.

The delay allowed CBS and NBC stations to get a jump on ABC affils and may have hurt the Alphabet web’s testimony ratings. Westin admitted the web made a mistake, according to several who attended the meeting.

Westin had planned to attend RTNDA in person, both to meet with affils and to participate in today’s roundtable of network news chiefs. The ABC News topper backed out at the last minute, however, citing the press of news coming out of Washington.

The Clinton scandal also caused ABC News “This Week” co-anchor Cokie Roberts to cancel plans to deliver the RTNDA keynote address Wednesday. She was replaced by ABC News anchor Charles Gibson.

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