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ABC News Reorganizes, Focuses on Digital

In a major reorganization that affects all of its top executives, ABC News president David Westin Tuesday appointed a single executive to oversee all programs.

Dave Davis, formerly general manager of WABC in New York, was named executive vice president responsible for ABC News programs including Good Morning America, World News, 20/20, Primetime, Nightline, This Week with George Stephanopoulos and the overnight broadcasts. Davis will report to Westin.

The executive shuffle is part of a streamlining strategy that began earlier this year with the announcement that ABC News would cut 35 jobs in part in an effort to reallocate assets to digital.

Having a single executive to oversee day-to-day operations on all programs will also help to quell the in-house rivalries and break down the barriers among units that have existed at ABC News since its inception, Westin said.

“When I came in 10 years ago, one of the things that I set out to do was try to reduce those walls.” he added. “And we’ve had a lot of good progress. But I think having Dave responsible for all of the programs means that he can continue that effort.”

With several executive producers reporting to three different senior executives, Westin said, “ultimately, disputes end up on my desk. And I’m spending my time worrying about rivalries among programs, and this way, Dave will be able to take care of that.”

Davis is certainly inured to the personnel issues inherent at media companies. “I’ve worked with Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa,” he said. “Those are pretty big personalities.”

“This is a very great strength of Dave’s,” Westin said. “He deals with people very, very well.”

Paul Slavin -- the former No. 2 under Westin, who was senior VP for worldwide newsgathering in charge of all domestic and foreign bureaus, as well as affiliate news service NewsOne and -- becomes senior VP of digital, working closely with Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital for Disney/ABC. Slavin will report to Westin.

Phyllis McGrady, who oversaw newsmagazines, long-form programming and GMA, becomes senior VP for creative development. McGrady reports to Westin.

Paul Mason -- who was in charge of weekend news programming including This Week, as well as Nightline and ABC News Radio -- becomes senior VP for politics, overseeing coverage of the upcoming presidential election.

And Bob Murphy, a 30-year veteran of ABC News who oversaw the relaunch of Nightline and handled the aftermath of Bob Woodruff’s and Doug Vogt’s injuries in Iraq, becomes VP of administration. He will report to Davis.

Davis helped to turn WABC into the top-rated local-news outlet in the No. 1 market, making it tremendously profitable and forging a close relationship with Disney CEO Bob Iger along the way. Before joining WABC, Davis was president and GM of WPVI, the ABC owned-and-operated station in Philadelphia.

One of his top priorities at ABC News, Davis said, is to revitalize GMA. Although the morning program remains the news division’s profit center, it is has lost 3% of its audience in a year that saw major on-air changes with the departure of longtime co-anchor Charlie Gibson to World News. (NBC’s Today, the top-rated morning show, is down 8% for the same time period.)

“I plan to be down [at GMA] very early tomorrow,” he added.

“The remarkable thing about GMA,” added Westin, “is how competitive it has been over the last year during what has really been a rebuilding year. Now I think we have the team in place and we’re poised with someone like [Davis] for a fresh perspective and a fresh energy to come in and really move us ahead.”

Most of the ABC News staff was informed of the reorganization in the past day, but Westin said he kept Diane Sawyer -- one of the faces, along with Gibson, of ABC News -- informed of the reorganization.

“I certainly talked to Diane,” he added, “although in all honesty, a lot of the things that this restructure will help us address, those are issues that we’ve been talking about internally, including with Diane, for a long time.”