Anne Sweeney Begins Internal ABC News Interviews

Disney-ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney was at ABC News headquarters in New York last week meeting with internal candidates to replace outgoing president David Westin.

According to multiple sources, Sweeney held meetings with a handful of current executives at ABC News, including James Goldston and Jim Murphy, executive producers at Nightline and Good Morning America, respectively. Sweeney also met with Kate O’Brian, senior VP of news coverage. Jon Banner, executive producer of World News with Diane Sawyer, had a meeting with Sweeney at an earlier occasion. 

There has been no shortage of speculation in media circles as well as inside ABC News, about who will take over the news division, which this year endured a wrenching 25% staff reduction and is in the midst of more buyouts, this time among union employees.

Sweeney is casting a “wide net,” says one executive. But since Westin’s Sept. 6 announcement that he would step down at the end of the year after more than 13 years in the job, no clear front-runner has emerged. 

The mantra from inside ABC News regarding the succession seems to be: “Nobody knows anything.”

Multiple names from the ABC station group including O&O president Rebecca Campbell and Emily Barr, the president and general manager of WLS-TV, the ABC O&O in Chicago, have been disavowed.

Campbell, the former president and general manager of WABC in New York, was just promoted to run the stations last May and relocated to Los Angeles for the job.

There has of course been much speculation that Sweeney will pluck someone from another division at Disney-ABC, as she did recently by tapping Radio Disney general manager Michael Riley to replace Paul Lee at ABC Family.

A West Coast source with access to Sweeney and her boss Disney president and CEO Bob Iger says “entrepreneur” is a more important credential for the next news division president than “journalist.”

And indeed, one source at ABC News observes: “If you have a good plan to get this place to make money, you’ll probably get [the job].”