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ABC News president Kim Godwin in hot water as Disney-appointed boss conducts review

Analysis by Oliver Darcy, CNN

New York (CNN) — Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.

ABC News President Kim Godwin is skating on thinner and thinner ice.

Debra OConnell, the well-liked and respected media veteran who was tapped by Burbank in February for a newly created position that oversees the news network, has spent the last few months evaluating the state of affairs at the Disney-owned property. Having immediately made it clear that she holds the real power at ABC News, OConnell has solicited an unyielding stream of input from a large swath of the organization. And, suffice to say, she has been less than impressed about what she has found.

OConnell, according to people familiar with the matter, has been astonished by Godwin’s management — or lack thereof — at the network. In private conversations, OConnell has pointed to a slew of problems that have materialized on Godwin’s watch, faulting the embattled ABC News chief for her hands-off leadership style, which she believes has allowed problems to fester.

OConnell, for example, has been astounded by the fact that a year after Godwin dismissed the network’s head of talent, Galen Gordon, the important position has yet to be filled. She was not pleased to see ABC News lose its Washington bureau chief, Jonathan Greenberger, to POLITICO just months before a historic presidential election, leaving that crucial seat vacant. And the fact that “CBS Mornings” has been knocking on the ratings door of “Good Morning America” has been yet another source of discomfort.

Most of all, OConnell is not blind to the fact that Godwin’s leadership has helped produced palpable anxiety and frustration among staffers who are wondering about the network’s longterm game plan as the linear television business continues to crumble. Network staffers are especially apprehensive in the wake of Disney boss Bob Iger publicly floating that he could sell off ABC, comments he has since tepidly walked back.

“She has to take swift moves,” a person familiar with the inner workings of ABC News candidly told me of OConnell. “People there are restless. They are extremely frustrated.”

To that end, CNN was told that OConnell is conducting a leadership review that could impact the executive suite, including some of Godwin’s top lieutenants. Those lieutenants include Stacia Deshishku, executive editor and senior vice president; Derek Medina, executive vice president; and Jose Andino, vice president of the office of the president and process management.

As OConnell’s not-so-subtle evaluation has played out at ABC News, Godwin has privately voiced displeasure about being layered away from Iger and bemoaned Disney’s micromanagement, CNN was told.

Spokespeople for Disney and ABC News declined to comment.

But as each day passes, it is increasingly difficult to see how the situation is sustainable for the long haul. And while Godwin did renew her contract when OConnell was appointed in February, the Magic Kingdom is haunted by the ghosts of executives who have been axed shortly after inking new deals with the company. It is, after all, the Disney way.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN-Opinion

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