NABJ asks Disney to appoint first Black ABC News president

An African American has never been the head of a major network's news division

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The National Association of Black Journalists is asking ABC to uphold its commitment to diversity.

On Jan. 28, the president of ABC News, James Goldston, announced his departure from the company, prompting NABJ to request that a Black person be appointed to the role. An African American has never held the top job at the news division of a major network.

“In 1962, ABC hired Mal Goode as the first network news correspondent, and in 1978, NABJ co-founder Max Robinson was named the first Black network evening news anchor,” said Ken Lemon, NABJ vice president-broadcast, per an NABJ press release.

Read More: NABJ wants two CBS executives fired amid racism allegations

“While progress has been made in front of the camera, it’s time for Black advancement in the executive suites.”

NABJ president Dorothy Tucker acknowledged the progress that has been made in broadcast media and the plethora of Black talent that has advanced in the digital and broadcast space. But she believes ABC can do more.

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Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“In the 53 years since the Kerner Commission called on news media outlets to increase the hiring of Black anchors, reporters, and editors, our industry has made a number of strides,” said Tucker. “African Americans have ascended to the top ranks of running publications like The New York Times, and just this week the first Black head of a cable news network started at MSNBC. But never have we seen an African American run a broadcast news network. That needs to change in 2021.”

ABC News found itself in the hot seat back in July of 2020 when one of its executives, Barbara Fedida, left the company after multiple employees alleged she made racist remarks.

Peter Rice, the chairman of general entertainment content at Walt Disney Television, ABC’s parent company, said ABC News plans to “enhance the culture of inclusion and make further progress on our goal of attracting, fostering and retaining diverse talent.”

NABJ expects the media giant to uphold that commitment.

“NABJ has made it a top priority to meet with numerous media companies to specifically address the dearth of Black senior executives. In 2019, we met with Goldston and his team about the lack of any senior news Black executives,” said NABJ vice president-digital, Roland S. Martin.

Read More: Former NABJ president Bryan Monroe suffers a fatal heart attack at age 55

“Later that year, Marie Nelson was hired. In 2020, when news of racist remarks by then-ABC VP Barbara Fedida was made public, NABJ met with Disney Chairman Peter Rice. Fedida was fired, and Galen Gordon was hired as senior VP of talent strategy and development. But we are not satisfied.”

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