ABC News president Kim Godwin steps down after turmoil

ABC News president Kim Godwin steps down after turmoil

Kim Godwin, president of ABC News, abruptly announced Sunday afternoon that she was leaving the network, ending a tumultuous three-year run at the outlet after staffers said her polarizing leadership led to a drop in employee morale.

“I have decided to retire from broadcast journalism,” Godwin told staffers in a memo that rocked the ABC News newsroom.

“I’ve been fortunate and blessed enough to have done almost every job there is in this business,” Godwin added. “But after careful consideration, I’m sure it’s the right one for me because I look to the future and prioritize what’s most important to me and my family.”

Godwin’s sudden exit came after CNN reported earlier this week that Debra O’Connell, a Disney ( DIS ) veteran tapped in February to oversee ABC News as part of her portfolio, was conducting a performance review and had voiced dissatisfaction in private conversations with the situation. on the network.

Morale at ABC News has suffered significantly since Godwin took the helm in 2021, with employees disillusioned with his leadership, more than two dozen staffers and others close to the network told CNN this week. The staff spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Godwin, staffers told CNN, made several major mistakes, including using a hands-off approach to managing, not developing a strategic vision for the newsroom, eliminating the head of talent relations and appointing an inner circle that alienated staff, among other streams of complaints. Moreover, while ABC’s flagship morning show “Good Morning America” continues to be a ratings success, it has slipped in viewership in recent months and has teased “CBS Mornings” for third place, raising alarm among staff.

Allies of Godwin who spoke to CNN in recent days argued that he is using a different kind of leadership style than the network staff used to use under previous leadership, which has taken a more hands-on approach. But his allies also acknowledged that he may not be the right fit to lead the network.

OConnell told employees in a memo that “for now,” he would oversee the network. Thanking staff for their “patience and understanding through this period of transition,” OConnell said he “looks forward to working with the leadership team as we forge a new path forward together.

“Since assuming this role in February, my goal has been — and will continue to be — to equip this team with the means necessary to build on our success and continue the proud tradition of ABC News into a future filled with opportunity and innovation,” OConnell said.

Over the past few months, complaints about Godwin have reached OConnell, who has also privately voiced frustration with Godwin’s leadership and inquired with industry figures about who should be installed into the C-suite to help repair the damage, according to people familiar with the conversation. Preliminary inquiries have also been made with potential candidates who may be interested in taking over the network’s presidency in the post-Godwin era, people familiar with the matter told CNN.

Ironically, Godwin entered ABC News three years ago as the first black woman to head a broadcast television news division with a mandate to restore its culture, only to exacerbate its problems and help undermine the competitive spirit that once flowed and animated the newsroom.

It’s unclear when the decision was made for Godwin and ABC News to part ways, but Godwin recently chaired editorial meetings at the Disney-owned network.

Disney announced in February that Godwin had renewed his contract to lead ABC News, even as the company installed OConnell in a new role overseeing its portfolio — a sign that chief executive Bob Iger had doubts about Godwin’s stewardship of the news division. After OConnell was appointed, Godwin privately voiced his displeasure at being sidelined from Iger and bemoaned what he called Disney’s micromanagement. A Disney spokesman declined to say Sunday whether the company would pay the rest of his contract.

“I leave with my head held high and wish the entire team continued success,” Godwin wrote in his note to staff.

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