For­mer ABC News pres­i­dent now goes in front of cam­era

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE - BY DAVID BAUDER

As pres­i­dent of the U.S.’ ABC News in 2006, David Westin ap­pointed Charles Gib­son an­chor of the net­work’s flag­ship “World News.” Nine years later, Gib­son re­turned the fa­vor.

He rec­om­mended Westin for a job as an­chor of Bloomberg Tele­vi­sion’s new morn­ing show, “Bloomberg Go,” which de­buts Mon­day in the U.S. Af­ter many years be­hind the scenes in tele­vi­sion, Westin will step in front of the cam­era for three hours each weekday morn­ing. He and coan­chor Stephanie Ruhle will talk about the day’s news fil­tered for a busi­ness au­di­ence.

Justin Smith, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bloomberg Media, was con­sid­er­ing re­vamp­ing the net­work’s morn­ing lineup when he kicked around ideas over lunch with the now-re­tired Gib­son. When the talk turned to anchors, Gib­son asked, “how will­ing are you to step out­side the box?”

“We were look­ing for some­thing out of the box,” Smith re­called. “That was the found­ing prin­ci­ple of our search.”

Gib­son sug­gested Westin, and he checked a lot of boxes: smart with wide-rang­ing tastes, knowl­edge­able about busi­ness and tele­vi­sion and fa­mil­iar to com­pany founder Michael Bloomberg. Westin’s job at ABC of­ten re­quired him to be the sub­ject of on-air in­ter­views, like when Peter Jen­nings died and Bob Woodruff was in­jured in Iraq.

“I ac­tu­ally sug­gested to him years ago that he ought to re­place me on ‘Good Morn­ing Amer­ica’ — you’d make more money and you wouldn’t have to fire peo­ple,” Gib­son said.

Westin, 63, had faced skep­tics when ap­pointed ABC News pres­i­dent in 1997. A cor­po­rate lawyer who had clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court, he had no TV news ex­pe­ri­ence. Since leav­ing ABC News in 2010 he’s been run­ning his own in­vest­ment firm and con­sult­ing, most promi­nently for Ya­hoo.

Smith broached the idea of an­chor­ing over a lunch in June and the deal was done in three days.

“When­ever I went on the air, some­body would say, ‘you know, you should do this,’” Westin said, “and (I’d say) sure, sure. The thought of it planted in my mind, but it was not some­thing I as­pired to. If I were 22 again, maybe I would think about do­ing that, but I’m not 22.”

At Bloomberg, he said that “I want to do the news pro­gram that I al­ways wanted to put on the air and, for var­i­ous con­straints, never got to.”

That’s not an

in­ten­tional

dig at “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.” The broad­cast morn­ing shows have al­ways been hy­brids of news and en­ter­tain­ment, with rat­ings pres­sure only get­ting more acute, he said. “Go” won’t be rated (Bloomberg be­lieves the Nielsen rat­ings poorly re­flect its au­di­ence be­cause so many peo­ple watch in of­fices). Suc­cess will be mea­sured by more en­gaged view­er­ship — peo­ple turn­ing up the vol­ume on desk-top screens that might oth­er­wise be muted.

While gen­eral au­di­ences may be in­ter­ested in the news, it usu­ally doesn’t af­fect them. For Bloomberg’s au­di­ence, sto­ries like the Iran deal and pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics can im­pact how they do busi­ness.

Westin and Ruhle will tap into the ex­per­tise of Bloomberg re­porters and out­side ex­perts, even con­sult­ing Bloomberg’s famed desk­top ter­mi­nal for data.

“We’re try­ing to cre­ate the smartest morn­ing tele­vi­sion pro­gram for ar­guably the smartest view­ers in the world — lead­ers of busi­ness, fi­nance and gov­ern­ment,” Smith said.

Since Bloomberg feeds a strong mar­ket in video streams of busi­ness con­tent, the show is be­ing de­signed to be bite-friendly for a busy au­di­ence: a 10-minute in­ter­view with a CEO, for ex­am­ple, may be doled out in two-minute in­cre­ments.

Westin called many of the an- chors who worked for him upon get­ting the job — Gib­son, Ted Kop­pel, Diane Sawyer, Ge­orge Stephanopou­los. He al­ready has a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for things they once told him that he never quite un­der­stood.

He re­mem­bers of­fer­ing Stephanopou­los ad­vice not to over­stuff in­ter­views, to con­cen­trate on mak­ing a few strong points. Now he’s find­ing that time moves quickly on-air and, in prac­tice shows, has fallen into some of the same traps. Gib­son said Westin will also face an ad­just­ment in not be­ing the boss.

An­chor­ing is a unique skill, re­quir­ing him to keep the me­chan­ics of a show mov­ing, talk in­tel­li­gently on many top­ics and look re­laxed do­ing it. Westin will learn on the fly, three solid hours a day.

“It’s in­sane,” he said. “It’s a very big chal­lenge and I hope I don’t un­der­es­ti­mate it.”

AP

This Wed­nes­day, Sept. 30 im­age re­leased by Bloomberg shows David Westin, an­chor on Bloomberg Tele­vi­sion’s new morn­ing show, “Bloomberg Go,” which de­buts Mon­day, Oct. 5 in the U.S.

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