Ben Sherwood, an executive who hasn't worked in TV news for years, named president of ABC News
The other shoe has finally fallen in ABC News president David Westin's long exit from the company, as onetime Good Morning America executive producer Ben Sherwood was announced today as his successor.
Sherwood is best known these days as a successful novelist, whose 2004 book The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud became a movie starring teen heartthrob Zac Efron. His latest book, The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life, explores the many ways some people can bounce back from adversity and others do not.
He was a surprise choice for those who closely watch such transitions, likely because he hasn't worked in the news game for four years. He left GMA in 2006 to write The Survivors Club, according to an interview Sherwood gave to USA Weekend in April. That 2009 book has since become a best-seller, spawning a website that was eventually bought by the Hearst Corporation (he said in the same interview that he quit a senior producing job at NBC Nightly News to write Charlie St. Cloud).
Despite his time hopscotching in and out of TV news, ABC has valued his talent enough to bring him back on board as head of its entire news division (figures that the author of The Survivors Club would know how to get better jobs in TV news by quitting the game).
Of course, Sherman's predecessor Westin was an attorney when he began leading ABC News 13 years ago; some still snipe that his decisions in the job reflected a lack of connection to journalism and TV news which led to some of the news divisions biggest setbacks.
For ABC News employees, Sherman's hire may only add to the uncertainty sparked by Westin's abrupt departure, as they find themselves led by an executive who hasn't worked in the industry during its most tumultuous times. He also wasn't at ABC when it shed more than 350 employees earlier this year -- a drastic downsizing through buyouts and layoffs that reduced its staff by at least 25 percent.
Below is a video featuring Sherman talking about his latest book; click below to see ABC's press release announcing his hiring.
The following press release announces the appointment of Ben Sherwood as President, ABC News
After an extensive search, award-winning journalist, bestselling author and Internet entrepreneur Ben Sherwood has been named the new President of ABC News, it was announced today by Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney/ABC Television Group, to whom he will report. In this position, Mr. Sherwood will be responsible for all editorial and business aspects of the News Division, including all ABC News programs on the ABC Television Network, ABC News Radio, ABC News.com and ABC News NOW.
In making the announcement, Ms. Sweeney stated, "Ben combines an intimate knowledge and success in the news business with a creative flair and entrepreneurial spirit that are second-to-none. While at ABC News, he delivered GMA's two most successful seasons in history, and guided prize-winning coverage of some of the biggest stories of the day. Since then, he's become a best-selling author whose work has been adapted into feature films, and a digital media entrepreneur. This success, combined with a keen intellect and a truly gracious and generous spirit, make Ben the ideal person to lead our News efforts into the future."
Mr. Sherwood began his lifelong fascination with journalism while still in college through internships at KCET public television in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau, and the CBS Evening News. In 1984-1985, during a year off from college, Sherwood worked for The News and Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina; the Los Angeles Times Paris bureau and the United Nations Border Relief Operation in Aranyaprathet, Thailand.
Mr. Sherwood started his journalistic career in earnest when he joined ABC News in 1989, serving as an investigative associate producer and producer for ABC News' PrimeTime (then called PrimeTime Live) with hosts Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson. During that time, he was part of an ABC News team that came under sniper fire in Sarajevo, Bosnia in August 1992, and his investigative reports explored flaws in the secretive B-2 stealth bomber program; the dangers of unlicensed mental health practitioners; and the unheralded risks of an overprescribed heart medication.
In 1997, Mr. Sherwood joined NBC's Nightly News with Tom Brokaw as broadcast producer responsible for "In Depth" reports, then senior producer, and ultimately senior broadcast producer, where he helped guide coverage of the September 11th attacks, the impeachment of President Clinton and the Florida election debacle of 2000.
After a short sabbatical undertaken for personal reasons, Mr. Sherwood returned to ABC News in April 2004 as executive producer of the network's award-winning morning program, Good Morning America.
During his tenure with the network, Mr. Sherwood guided GMA to its two most successful seasons in its history, while overseeing prize-winning coverage of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the devastation of hurricane Katrina, and the presidential election of 2004.
Over the years, Mr. Sherwood's journalism and non-fiction essays have been published in many respected publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, New Republic, Washington Monthly, Parade and O magazine.
Ben Sherwood is also the author of two critically acclaimed best-selling novels: The Man Who Ate the 747 (2000) and The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud (2004). His fiction has been published around the world in 15 languages. In 1996, he published his first novel, Red Mercury, a techno-thriller, under the pseudonym Max Barclay.
In July 2010, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud was adapted as a feature film starring Zac Efron that was released by Universal Pictures under the title "Charlie St. Cloud." The Man Who Ate the 747 is also being developed as a major motion picture and Broadway musical.
Mr. Sherwood's latest book, The Survivors Club, is a non-fiction exploration of the science and secrets of who bounces back from everyday adversity and who doesn't; who beats life-threatening disease and who succumbs; and who triumphs after economic hardship and who surrenders. The book became an instant New York Times bestseller and has been featured widely in print and on television.
In January 2009, Mr. Sherwood founded TheSurvivorsClub.org, an online resource center and support network for people surviving and thriving in the face of all kinds of adversity. In September 2010, The Survivors Club relaunched in partnership with Hearst Digital Media, significantly expanding its reach and offerings.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard College in 1986, Mr. Sherwood earned an AB degree in American government and history. From 1986 to 1989, as a Rhodes Scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford, he earned masters degrees in British imperial history and development economics.
Mr. Sherwood is currently a member of the board of directors of City Year in Los Angeles and a member of the advisory board of the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, DC. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.