Kimberly Godwin is about to make history — as the incoming president of ABC News, she’ll be the first Black executive to run one of America’s major broadcast network newsrooms.
ABC’s parent company, Disney, announced Godwin’s appointment on Wednesday. She will take over in May.
Godwin is currently an executive vice president at CBS News, one of ABC’s main rivals. “She has top editorial oversight of newsgathering around the world, including the national desks, foreign desks and bureaus,” according to CBS.
She previously worked on the “CBS Evening News;” served as the news outlet’s executive director for development and diversity; and oversaw units like News Standards & Ethics and CBS Audio Services.
Godwin’s impending appointment was first reported last week by NBC News.
As president of ABC News, she will oversee programs like “Good Morning America,” newsgathering operations, and digital ventures.
She will succeed James Goldston, who announced in January that he planned to step down after seven years as president. His last day was at the end of March. Peter Rice, chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content, has been running ABC News along with a group of deputies.
“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,” Rice said in an internal memo on Wednesday.
Godwin said in a statement that she has “immense respect and admiration for ABC News.”
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.
ViacomCBS is also known to be searching for a new president of its news division. Susan Zirinsky, the current president of CBS News, told staffers on Wednesday that she will be moving into a new role at CBS, according to a person who attended Zirinsky’s morning editorial meeting.
Zirinsky, a veteran producer who became the first woman to lead CBS News two years ago, is expected to produce programming for CBS and ViacomCBS outlets.
News operations have been under both internal and external pressure to match their talk about valuing diversity with action.
At ABC News, every past president has been a white man. When Goldston announced his departure plans, industry insiders anticipated that Disney would make finding a person of color a priority in the search for his replacement.
Rice said in his memo that “Kim is a proven leader committed to creating a newsroom culture of excellence, respect and dignity. I have been particularly impressed with her dedication to the mission and integrity of journalism, as well as her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion that has been a hallmark of her career and earned her the National Association of Black Journalists’ prestigious Ida B. Wells Award this past November.”
In nominating her for that award, CBS News reporter LaCrai Mitchell said of Godwin, “The higher she’s risen in rank, the more young journalists of color she’s brought along with her because she knows the true victory isn’t in her reaching the top but in how many people she can bring to the top with her — people who have diverse backgrounds, life experiences and stories.”