Ben Sherwood open to potential Bloomberg merger

New ABC News prexy Ben Sherwood remains open to a potential merger with Bloomberg, the exec said Monday.

Speaking to reporters at the TV Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, Sherwood emphasized that there was nothing to announce — and indeed, a network spokesman said no talks are currently taking place. But a deeper news-sharing partnership with Bloomberg is among the possibilities as Sherwood rethinks his operation.

“We’re already in business with Bloomberg,” he said. “How can you not think about a partnership with an organization that has had the success that Bloomberg has?”

Meanwhile, Sherwood also addressed ABC News’ coverage of the weekend’s shootings in Tucson, detailing how the division mobilized and sent key anchors, including Diane Sawyer, Christiane Amanpour and George Stephanopoulos, to Arizona.

Sherwood also expressed regret that ABC News’ website briefly cited other sources in wrongly announcing the death of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Sherwood said the website had a banner up for about 10 minutes linking to those reports. ABC News did not broadcast the erroneous report, however.

“It’s terrible for a period of time (that Giffords’ husband) was exposed to that,” Sherwood said of the mistaken stories. “It hit me in the heart … it’s a reminder that we have to get it right and with one voice. I’m proud of how ABC handled it on the broadcast side.”

As for whether media rhetoric had a role in triggering the shootings, Sherwood said it was “way too soon to connect” the dots.

“It’s a complex question already grabbed a hold of by cable TV,” he said. “We don’t know a lot about why (the gunman) did it. We’re just getting a glimpse of that. To lead next to the media’s role in it is a giant leap, and it’s premature to make that leap.”

Meanwhile, Sherwood also told reporters that there shouldn’t be any further layoffs at ABC News, which was hit hard by downsizing over the past year.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat the last year at ABC,” he said. “It’s been very difficult … but I think we are turning the corner to more success.”

Sherwood touted ABC News’ recently established army of “backpack” digital journalists as an important part of the division’s future. The exec mused that a lot had changed in the industry since he first joined ABC News more than two decades ago as an associate producer.

“Twenty-one years ago, when ABC was No. 1, the questions we face today were inconceivable,” he said. “It’s my fundamental belief that the future of news and information is up for grabs. And ABC is now poised better than ever to grab ahold of news leadership in the future.”Sherwood also laid out three “themes” for his tenure at ABC News: better unifying ABC News’ various outlets (including TV, Web and radio); finding new creative ideas; and expanding reach via new technology and partnerships (such as with Bloomberg).

Sherwood said he also forsees a closer relationship between ABC’s news and entertainment divisions, allowing ABC News to produce more series in the vein of “Hopkins 24/7″ during the regular TV season (and not just in the summer).

“My hope is that ABC News is called upon to produce compelling and riveting primetime programming during the rest of the year,” Sherwood said.

Asked about “This Week” and whether there’s concern over the Sunday morning show’s perf under new host Amanpour, Sherwood offered up a show of support.

“Christiane is an intrepid, ferocious reporter and a true TV news star,” he said. “ABC News is incredibly fortunate to have her.”

As for Jake Tapper, who temporarily took control of “This Week,” Sherwood promised big things for the journo.

“Jake is an irrepressible, unbelievable modern TV news talent,” he said. “Jake Tapper has a fantastic secret sauce that everyone should get ahold of. He’s really figured it out.”

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