Kimberly Godwin, a veteran of local and national TV-news operations, will be the next president of ABC News — and the first Black executive to run a broadcast-network news operation.
Disney on Wednesday confirmed that Godwin, who has been with CBS News since 2007, will take over the role most recently held by James Goldston. She will now be charged with maintaining the status of two of ABC News’ mainstays, “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight,” both of which are the most-watched programs in their category, along with shows like “The View,” “20/20 and “This Week.” And she will have ultimate say over the news unit’s increasingly frequent steps into live-streaming, audio and special programming.
She will join ABC News in May.
“Kim is an instinctive and admired executive whose unique experiences, strengths and strategic vision made her the ideal choice to lead the outstanding team at ABC News and build on their incredible success,” said Peter Rice, chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content, in a statement. “Throughout Kim’s career in global news organizations and local newsrooms, she has distinguished herself as a fierce advocate for excellence, collaboration, inclusion and the vital role of accurate and transparent news reporting.” Godwin will report to Rice.
At CBS, Godwin has held positions of increasing responsibility, and people familiar with the matter suggest she had indicated to ViacomCBS executives she was looking for a role that would give her oversight of the news division. CBS CEO George Cheeks, who has been looking for a new executive to run CBS News, made plain she was not being considered for a job that would make her the sole executive in charge of the operation, and in recent days, when it became apparent Godwin’s talks with ABC and Walt Disney had gained traction, let her out of her current contract with the company.
“I have immense respect and admiration for ABC News,” Godwin said in a statement. “As the most trusted brand in news, they are to be commended for the extraordinary work and dedication of the journalists, producers, executives and their teams across the organization. I am honored to take on this stewardship and excited for what we will achieve together.”
Godwin will face challenges in her new role. Some ABC News staffers had hoped that a familiar face would be the next to guide them, such as Michael Corn, the executive producer who oversees “GMA,” or Tom Cibrowski, a veteran ABC News executive who now is general manager of KGO, a Disney-owned station in San Francisco. And while CBS News has a sterling reputation in the industry, owing to its connection with news stalwarts like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, as well as its “60 Minutes” newsmagazine, in recent years the network’s morning and evening programs have settled into third place among broadcast-news offerings.
ABC News has proven itself to be a restive environment in recent months, drawing scrutiny for reports about the alleged behavior of former senior executive Barbara Fedida toward employees (she denied claims made against her) and for a recent decision to award the bulk of duties related to special reports and breaking news to “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir. His evening news program has become one of the most-watched elements of the ABC schedule. “Good Morning America” and “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos had previously handled all breaking-news duties for the network.
Godwin has managed large newsrooms and is well aware of their unique rhythms. At CBS, she supervised 400 domestic and foreign affiliates; the unit’s national news desk and its bureaus; and standards and ethics, among other duties. In 2020 Godwin helped to develop and supervise a new unit devoted to telling stories about race and culture as well as CBS Village, a multiplatform franchise aimed at calling attention to content about diverse groups of people. She also held senior roles at WCBS in New York City; KNBC in Los Angeles and KXAS in Dallas/Fort Worth. Godwin also worked a stint as vice president of news operations for NBC’s local-station division.
Godwin’s new role is the latest in a parade of changes at the senior level of some of TV’s biggest news operations. Rashida Jones started earlier this year as president of MSNBC, making her the first Black executive to oversee one of the nation’s big cable-news networks. Jeff Zucker, president of WarnerMedia’s CNN, has indicated he expects to leave his role by the end of 2021.
Meanwhile, at CBS, Godwin’s former employer, there is more transition in the wind. Susan Zirinsky, president of CBS News, is expected to step down from her position and take up a new role as a producer for non-fiction content tailored to various parts of ViacomCBS.