4. David Westin
President of ABC News
Last year’s rank: 6
Why he was chosen: “World News” is not the only thing looking up for Mr. Westin, whose 10-year tenure is by far the longest of any incumbent broadcast network news president. Add cable news to the mix and only Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes has run a national news operation longer.
The most powerful sign that ABC News is no longer under the cloud of gloom that had settled in with the death of longtime anchor Peter Jennings in 2005 is the miraculous recovery of Bob Woodruff. Mr. Woodruff was back at ABC News, where he and Elizabeth Vargas were installed as Mr. Jennings’ joint successors, barely a year after sustaining serious injuries in Iraq.
Mr. Westin’s division is raising the stakes from morning, with second-ranked “Good Morning America” making its strongest run on NBC’s “Today” show in three years, to late night, where a revamped “Nightline” is pulling better ratings than the hallowed Ted Koppel version it replaced.
A deal for solo sponsorship of four consecutive Monday editions of “World News” has put the past two Monday nights in the win column for the flagship ABC newscast. Even weekends are re-energized; “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” has finished second, overtaking CBS’s “Face the Nation” for two consecutive sweeps ratings periods, something that hadn’t happened in the previous five years. The division is racking up headlines and awards with big stories; the most resonant was the tale of former Rep. Mark Foley’s explicit e-mails to male pages. Other news organizations heard the same rumors, but ABC’s investigative correspondent Brian Ross confirmed them and the network ran with it.
The news division’s theatrical leading lady, Diane Sawyer, has all but stopped chasing celebrity interviews and instead is reporting from North Korea, Syria, Iran and, last week, Afghanistan. The ABC News Digital group, which includes ABCNews.com and “ABC News Now,” racked up nearly 60 million views and downloads of ABC News content across all digital platforms in January, up 89 percent from the same time last year. “World News” accounted for nearly 50 million webcast views and podcast downloads in 2006.
To top things off, books by three ABC News reporters — Mr. Woodruff (and his wife, Lee), Martha Raddatz and Jan Crawford Greenberg — have hit the New York Times’ best-sellers list this year.