Godwin has had an offer from Disney’s ABC for several weeks, according to a person familiar with the matter, but only in the last few days did CBS CEO George Cheeks agree to let the executive out of her contract. The decision, this person says, was not an easy one for CBS to make; the company wanted to keep Godwin on board. Godwin was recently given new responsibilities at CBS’ local stations, taking oversight of news operations there in the wake of the dismissal of executives Peter Dunn and David Friend amid a probe of allegations about their behavior.
CBS News declined to comment. ABC News, CBS and Disney could not be reached for immediate comment. There has been no official announcement of Godwin’s hire and there is always a chance decision-making might change. NBC News previously reported the move.
Godwin has risen to executive vice president of CBS News, where she is a lieutenant of sorts to Susan Zirinsky, that unit’s president. She has been with CBS News since 2007, and has worked in positions ranging from executive director for development and diversity to senior broadcast producer of “CBS Evening News.” In 2019, she helped recalibrate the evening-news program as Norah O’Donnell took over as its anchor.
She also has extensive experience at stations around the country. She spent more than 20 years as a manager at some of the top local stations in the United States, including New York’s WCBS and Los Angeles’ KNBC. She was vice president of news operations for NBC Television Stations in 2001 . She began her career as an executive producer, producer, investigative reporter and news writer at television and radio stations in West Palm Beach and Tallahassee, Florida.
Godwin will enter a news division that has enjoyed new success in recent years. “Good Morning America,” the ABC News A.M. franchise, is the most-watched morning show in the nation, and “World News Tonight,” anchored by David Muir, has become one of the most-watched programs on the ABC schedule. That has made some executives wary of the taking on the job, according to one person familiar with the search process; there is a risk of losing the lead for two of the network’s top news franchises.
But ABC News has made moves on other fronts, and the division is producing more hours across many different venues. Over the past year’s extremely intense news cycle, ABC News’ work has included more hours in primetime; on the new live-streaming outlet ABC News Live; and on Hulu. Some correspondents are poised to launch programs for streaming venues, and ABC News has gained some traction in the afternoons with an extension of “Good Morning America” devoted to giving viewers an update on the news of the day.
Disney executive Peter Rice, chairman of the company’s general-entertainment division, has been working with a search firm for weeks to find a replacement for James Goldston, who left the company at the end of March. Among those who had been considered for the top news role, according to people familiar with the search process, were Sam Feist, the Washington bureau chief for CNN; Tom Cibrowski, the former senior ABC News executive who had a hand in bolstering ABC’s “Good Morning America” in its battle with “Today” and who now runs Disney’s San Francisco TV station, KGO; Wendy McMahon, president of ABC’s local stations division; Marie Nelson, ABC News’ senior vice president of content strategy; and Jim Bell, the former NBCUniversal executive who supervised “Today,” NBC Sports’ production for the Olympics and “The Tonight Show” during parts of his tenure.