By:
April 15, 2021

It’s official. Kimberly Godwin has been named president of ABC News, making her the first Black executive to run a broadcast network news division. Word of Godwin taking over at ABC News has been out for a week and the deal was finalized and announced Wednesday.

Godwin goes to ABC News from CBS News, where she had been since 2007. She was second-in-command as executive vice president of news, directing newsgathering across the network’s global portfolio with full editorial oversight. She also had served as vice president of news, CBS News executive director for development and diversity, and senior broadcast producer of the “CBS Evening News.”

In a statement, Peter Rice, chairman of general entertainment content for Disney, which owns ABC, said, “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. 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.”

In the same statement, Godwin said, “I have immense respect and admiration for ABC News. 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.”

Notable is that Godwin leaves CBS News just as The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint reported that Susan Zirinsky will soon step down as president of CBS News to take a new role in a wide-ranging production partnership with parent company ViacomCBS.

In a story for CNN, Brian Stelter wrote, “It is unusual to see a broadcast news division poach an outside candidate for the top job. But it is happening at a time of turnover across the news landscape.”

In a memo sent to CBS News employees and obtained by Poynter, George Cheeks — president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group and ViacomCBS — wrote, “For a while now, Kim and I have been in an ongoing discussion about her future, including new opportunities, at CBS. I know first-hand the affection and passion she has for CBS News. At the same time, she was presented with an opportunity she simply couldn’t pass up.”

Perhaps Godwin wasn’t offered the job to run the CBS News operation, or perhaps ABC News offered a better opportunity — both in money and stature. ABC News is in solid shape and its evening newscast (“World News Tonight”) and morning show (“Good Morning America”) sit on top of the ratings in their respective time slots. Godwin also takes over a news division that oversees popular shows such as the weekday “The View” and Sunday morning’s “This Week.”

Godwin is expected to start in May. She replaces James Goldston, who is stepping down after seven years as president.

Bad news for journalists

There’s a new study out by The Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, and it signals some disheartening news for journalists. Specifically:

  • Not all Americans universally embrace core journalism values.
  • The trust crisis may be better understood through people’s moral values than their politics.
  • There is a link between people’s moral values and their support for journalism values.
  • There are ways journalists can broaden story choices and framing to reach and be relevant to more of the public, skeptical and trusting alike.

The study tested public attitudes toward the core values that many journalists consider fundamental, things such as truth and accuracy, transparency, advocacy for the voiceless and being a watchdog. The study found that only 11% of Americans fully support those core values. And of all the core values, the only one that has overwhelming support from Americans (about 70%) is the idea that more facts get us closer to the truth.

There’s much more to the report, which you should take a few minutes to read. But also notable is that the results don’t necessarily have anything to do with political party lines, but instead morals.

In her column for The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan said her first impulse was to resist the findings, but she wrote, “Given that trust in the news media has fallen from about 70 percent in the early 1970s to about 40 percent now, according to Gallup — it seems worth viewing this report with an open mind.”

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, told Sullivan, “This at least opens a new window. It gets us out of the endless loop.”

Sullivan wrote, “This research, troubling as it is, offers journalists the chance to think differently. Given the depth of our trust problem, we would do well to take that opportunity.

Carlson’s latest conspiracy theory

And now for your daily “Did you hear what Tucker Carlson said?” item.

Seriously, the Fox News host says so many outrageous things that I could probably write something every day about him. Lately, I have been. In fact, there are some, such as Media Matters for America, who pretty much do write about him every day. Maybe we would all be better off to just ignore what Carlson has to say, so as not to give him any power or amplify his irresponsible and often dangerous commentary.

Then again, I also believe it’s important to call him out. He is, after all, the host of the most popular cable news TV show in the country. Perhaps by constantly writing about his rhetoric, Fox News will someday finally do something about him. And, if not, maybe some of his viewers will get the message that Carlson’s commentary is troubling and just plain wrong.

On the other hand, his viewers seem dedicated. One wrote me Wednesday to say he was a “devout follower” of Carlson. Devout? Oh my.

So here’s the latest from Carlson: Maybe the COVID-19 vaccines don’t work, the government knows it and they’re just not telling anyone.

He got going on this topic after the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a pause on Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose shot because a small number of people among millions who received the vaccine developed blood clots.

Carlson said on the air: “At some point, no one is asking this but everyone should be, what is this about? If vaccines work, why are vaccinated people still banned from living normal lives? Honestly, what’s the answer to that, it doesn’t make any sense at all. If the vaccine is effective there’s no reason for people who’ve received a vaccine to wear masks or avoid physical contact. So maybe it doesn’t work and they’re simply not telling you that. Well you’d hate to think that, especially if you’ve gotten two shots, but what’s the other potential explanation? We can’t think of one.”

During an appearance on CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci blasted Carlson’s commentary, saying, “That’s just a typical crazy conspiracy theory. Why would we not tell people if it doesn’t work?”

The vaccines work, Fauci said, adding, “Look at the data. The data are overwhelming. … I don’t have any idea what he’s talking about.”

When asked if Carlson’s commentary hurts the country overcoming the coronavirus, Fauci said, “ … it’s certainly not helpful to the public health of the nation or even globally. … It’s counter to what we’re trying to accomplish to protect the safety and health of the American public.”

Lachlan Murdoch’s return

Reuters’ Byron Kaye and Helen Coster report that Fox Corp. top executive Lachlan Murdoch will return to the United States in September after being in Australia for many months. His return appears to coincide with Fox employees’ planned return to offices after working remotely because of COVID-19.

Bush’s regrets

Former President George Bush talks with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell. (Courtesy: CBS News)

CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell has interviewed former President George W. Bush for a segment that will air this weekend on “CBS Sunday Morning.” Bush plans to start weighing in more on immigration and told O’Donnell that it’s one of the biggest disappointments of his presidency.

“Yes, it really is,” Bush told O’Donnell. “I campaigned on immigration reform. I made it abundantly clear to voters this is something I intended to do.”

Bush has a new book titled “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants.” He talks to O’Donnell about that, as well as his life after leaving office, his thoughts on the country and his painting. Additional portions of the interview will air on the “CBS Evening News” next week.

Too much coverage

Apparently the BBC is spending too much time covering the death of Prince Philip. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Hassan reports the BBC has received more than 100,000 complaints about the coverage — the most complaints it has ever received about a story. Viewers believe the coverage is “excessive” and are not happy about changes to regularly scheduled programming.

Hassan wrote, “While much of the nation — and the world — paid tribute to the duke and mourned his death, the BBC’s decision to dedicate so much airtime to royal programming angered ‘MasterChef’ fans, who had been looking forward to seeing who would be crowned winner of the popular cooking competition.”

According to Hassan, the BBC defended its coverage, saying it was “proud of the role we play during moments of national significance.”

Surely you’re asking: What was the BBC’s previous record for complaints about a story? The Guardian’s Jim Waterson writes, “The previous record for BBC complaints is believed to be the 63,000 objections to the 2005 decision to broadcast ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’, following criticism from Christian groups.”

Powerful words

NBC News’ Richard Engel during the network’s special coverage on Wednesday (Courtesy: NBC News)

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said this during Wednesday’s special report following President Joe Biden’s announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan:

It is the end of an era and the Taliban see this as a tremendous victory. That’s where we’re seeing the biggest reaction so far from Afghans themselves. The Taliban — and I’ve spoken to their leaders — believe that Afghan guerilla fighters pushed out in the 19th century the greatest power in the world, the British empire, and then at the height of the Cold War they pushed out the Soviet Union and now they will soon be seeing the backs of American forces while they, the Taliban, remain. So, they see this as a historic victory.

Afghan people are very nervous. Over the last 20 years while American troops have been in that country, the country has progressed tremendously, life expectancies have altered people’s lives, medical care has changed, access to school, particularly for women, has been revolutionary. People there now have access to the internet and access to mobile phones and they don’t want to go back living in the stone ages, which is what it was like under the Taliban.

And then finally, the Afghan government could collapse. The Afghan government has become incredibly dependent on the United States, on the United States military, on American money. So, there is a possibility the country could go into some sort of civil war. But are Americans going to stay there forever? This does put a bookend on the 9/11 era.

Bernie Madoff coverage

Bernie Madoff, the man behind what is believed to be the largest Ponzi scheme in history, died in prison on Wednesday from kidney disease. He was 82.

Madoff was serving a 150-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in March 2009 to securities fraud and other charges. It’s still not for certain just how deep his scheme went, but according to those in charge of sifting through it all, it’s believed investors had sunk about $17.5 billion into Madoff’s business. Clients believed they had holdings of about $60 billion at the time Madoff was arrested. According to records, more than 15,400 claims have been filed against Madoff.

Check out these detailed stories about Madoff and his death:

Raising concerns

Attorney Ben Crump during an appearance on Wednesday’s “CBS This Morning” (Courtesy: CBS News)

Ben Crump, the attorney representing the family of Daunte Wright, was interviewed on Wednesday’s “CBS This Morning.” Wright was the Black man shot and killed by police during a traffic stop just outside of Minneapolis on Sunday.

Crump was asked about another Minneapolis shooting. The murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is continuing and Crump, who also represents the family of George Floyd, was asked how he thought the prosecution was doing in its case.

“I think Attorney General Keith Ellison and his team of prosecutors are making a very compelling case why Derek Chauvin should be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd,” Crump said. “But as I’ve said before, I’ve been a civil rights attorney for the balance of my professional career, but I’ve been Black all my life. And I know we can never, ever take for granted in America that a police officer would be held accountable for killing a Black person unjustly no matter how much evidence we have.”

Crump also was asked if he thinks Chauvin will take the stand.

“Normally,” Crump said, “if your client takes the stand, it is a desperate, desperate effort to try to make sure he is somehow exonerated.”

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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