Debra OConnell to Serve as Interim ABC News President After Kim Godwin Exits

OConnell led the network’s morning meeting Monday, noting Godwin will be present this week to help with the transition

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Debra OConnell (Credit: ABC/Danny Weiss)

While no successor has been named to replace Kim Godwin as ABC News president after her resignation on Sunday, Debra OConnell has support in the newsroom to lead the network in the interim.

OConnell, the newly minted president of Disney Entertainment’s News Group and Networks, will be overseeing ABC News operations in the meantime.

On Monday, OConnell led ABC News’ morning meeting, noting that Godwin would be present throughout the week to aid in the transition. However, it’s not clear if there will be much of a transition at all, considering Godwin has been reporting directly to OConnell since February. 

OConnell wrote in a memo to staff Sunday that “I’m looking 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 provide this team with the means necessary to build on our success and carry on the proud tradition of ABC News into a future full of opportunity and innovation,” OConnell continued in her memo to staffers. 

Godwin resigned from ABC News on Sunday evening, announcing her decision in a memo to staff, writing, “I have decided to retire from broadcast journalism.” 

“I leave with my head held high and wish the entire team continued success,” Godwin told staffers.

Godwin was tapped as the network’s president of news in 2021, becoming the first Black woman to lead a broadcast network’s news division. Prior to her tenure at ABC News, Godwin served as executive vice president of CBS News. 

However, Godwin’s role at ABC News was complicated by the arrival of OConnell, who was promoted in February. OConnell spent the last three months evaluating the network’s operations, as well as Godwin’s performance. 

In a memo to staff, when OConnell was first appointed, Godwin wrote that the consolidation under her would allow for ABC News to “better amplify the incredible work we all produce daily.”

But once OConnell began soliciting input from staffers about the current leadership structure in place, Godwin’s role become much more uncomfortable. 

OConnell determined that Godwin’s style was considerably hands-off, which allowed internal issues to fester to a point where they exploded. 

On Thursday, for example, ABC News meteorologist Rob Marciano exited the network abruptly after spending a decade as a regular contributor to weekend and morning programming. While ABC News declined to comment on the nature of the departure, Marciano had previously been banned from “Good Morning America” after making a colleague uncomfortable on set, according to Page Six. 

OConnell was also frustrated that Godwin had not hired a replacement for the network’s head of talent, Galen Gordon, a year after he was dismissed, according to CNN’s Oliver Darcy. Staffers have also expressed concerns about the inability of leadership to articulate a clear plan for the future of the network as linear TV continues to suffer in the streaming era. 

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