ABC made a pro forma announcement this morning, officially naming ABC News SVP James Goldston to replace Ben Sherwood as president of the news division. Last month, when Sherwood was promoted to co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group, following Anne Sweeney’s surprising decision to step down as president of the Disney/ABC Television Group to become a TV director, the list of possible Sherwood replacements read like this:
1) James Goldston
2) James Goldston
3) James Goldston
Goldston’s the guy credited with saving Nightline from oblivion, and turning Good Morning America into the franchise that deposed NBC’s Today as king of the morning show ratings — though Goldston already had been upped to Sherwood’s No. 2 guy, and Tom Cibrowski, who’d worked with Goldston on GMA, had been promoted to GMA chief when the program actually went in for the kill. Discussions about Goldston generally include the expression “golden gut” and he is said to be well-liked in the news division. He’s also considered so valuable to the news operation that discussion of Sherwood-replacement plans didn’t seem to include any other names.
Related: Q&A: Incoming Disney/ABC TV Group Co-Chairman Ben Sherwood
Back in March 2012, when Sherwood announced he was promoting both Goldston and Cibrowski — giving Goldston a new executive role as SVP for content and development and giving Cibrowski charge of GMA — Goldston was put in charge of ABC News’ programs and executive producers. He also was tasked with spearheading development of new shows for broadcast, cable, and other distribution.
Goldston, a Brit, worked for many years in England as a news producer covering conflicts in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Kosovo. During that time, he led ITV’s flagship Tonight and produced one of the world’s most-watched documentaries, Living With Michael Jackson. ABC bought U.S. broadcast rights to that docu, which was a big ratings hit for the network, hosted by Martin Bashir — 38 million watched the two-hour special on the network.
In that announcement, Sherwood described Goldston’s commitment to “high-impact journalism, enterprise reporting and making memorable TV.” As executive producer of Nightline, Sherwood said Goldston and his team “transformed the broadcast and took it from No. 3 to No. 1 in late night” (before ABC moved it out of the 11:35 PM time slot to make way for Jimmy Kimmel). After that, as senior executive producer of GMA, Sherwood said, “the results have been excellent: the strongest competitive position versus Today in many years and a tremendous on-air and off-air team.”
Here’s today’s announcement:
Burbank, CA/New York, NY — Thursday, April 10, 2014 — As part of the ongoing succession process, Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, today announced that ABC News Senior Vice President James Goldston has been named president, ABC News, replacing Ben Sherwood, who was recently promoted to co-president, Disney/ABC Television Group.
In this role, Mr. Goldston will be responsible for all editorial and business aspects of the News Division, including all ABC News programs on the ABC Television Network, ABC News Radio, ABC News.com and ABC News NOW.
In making the announcement, Ms. Sweeney stated, “James has been an integral part of the resurgence at ABC News, lending his insight and expertise to our News programs as they’ve experienced tremendous success and momentum. He’s smart, strategic and fearless in his pursuit of creative excellence.”
In a note to ABC staff, Mr. Sherwood said, “An award-winning journalist, masterful programmer, and innovative businessman, James has helped steer ABC News in moments of triumph and adversity,” said Mr. Sherwood. “I am confident he is the right person to lead ABC News to an even brighter and better future.”
“Coming to ABC News has been the most exciting and rewarding time in my life. The people of ABC News amaze me every day with their dedication, creativity, hunger for the truth and sense of duty to our vitally important mission,” said Mr. Goldston. “Over the past three years, Ben inspired the division with the two most important things we needed – confidence in the future and a belief that if we dreamed big dreams we could accomplish anything. Armed with those, I know our incredible team will take ABC News to even greater heights.”
Mr. Goldston was named Senior Vice President for Content and Development of ABC News in March 2012. In this role, he oversaw ABC News programs and Executive Producers and led the development of new shows for broadcast, cable and other distribution.
Prior to his role as Senior Vice President, Mr. Goldston was the Senior Executive Producer of “Good Morning America” from February 2011-March 2012, the historic and pivotal time in which “Good Morning America” closed in on “Today’s” 16-year winning streak to ultimately become the number one morning show in April 2012.
Mr. Goldston joined ABC News in 2004 as Senior Producer of primetime specials and investigations and was promoted shortly thereafter to Executive Producer of “Nightline,” a position he held until 2011. Under his leadership, “Nightline” rose to the number one program in late night and was honored with many awards, including a duPont, a Murrow and multiple Emmy Awards.
Before joining ABC News, Mr. Goldston led Britain’s most watched current affairs program, ITV1′s “Tonight with Trevor McDonald,” from 2002-2004. During his tenure as both Producer and Executive Producer, “Tonight” was honored with the prestigious Program of the Year Award three times in five years.
A graduate of Jesus College, Oxford University, Mr. Goldston began his career in television as a producer for several BBC News programs, including “Newsnight,” the network’s nightly news analysis show, as well as BBC’s flagship current affairs program, “Panorama.”