After requesting _ and not receiving _ a vote of confidence from ABC management, Good Morning America co-anchor Kevin Newman has asked off the struggling show.
Newman, who with Lisa McRee re-launched GMA in May 1997, requested a meeting with senior management before Christmas. Having heard rumors of his imminent demise for months, Newman asked whether the network had confidence in him, according to those with knowledge of the meeting.
When no vote of confidence was offered, Newman said he wanted to be reassigned within the news division. Management agreed, and talks began with Newman's predecessor, Charles Gibson, to return to GMA for the short term until a permanent replacement was named.
+ While Bill Clinton fights for his political life, Democrats have become virtually invisible on ABC's This Week.
It's not for lack of trying, says co-anchor Sam Donaldson. This Week tries to book Democrats and administration officials, he says, but most refuse to appear on the political roundtable.
The Dems are dissing ABC in support of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, locked out by ABC since Nov. 3. In eight weeks, just two Democrats have done This Week, vs. 15 Republicans.
The dearth of Democrats "hurts us," Donaldson says. "With something like the Clinton scandal, for us to be fair and to present opposing views, we need Democrats and Republicans. When we cannot book Democrats, for the most part, how can we possibly fulfill our obligation to our audience?"
Since the lockout, only Sen. John Breaux, D-La., and Rep. Martin T. Meehan, D-Mass., have crossed NABET's picket line for This Week. Defense Secretary William Cohen, a Republican, is the lone administration official to have walked the walk.
According to Donaldson, NABET gives a pass to politicos during a "national emergency situation." Cohen appeared during the U.S. bombing of Iraq.
While Democrats have done off-camera interviews, their absence on set "is frustrating, given the highly competitive situation we're in," Donaldson says. "If it were 1985 and David Brinkley were still king of Sunday morning, it wouldn't be so critical."
This Week was in trouble long before the Democrats bailed. Tim Russert's Meet the Press on NBC has won the ratings race 56 of the last 58 weeks, averaging 4.3-million viewers to This Week's 3.5-million. Bob Schieffer's Face the Nation delivers 2.4-million on CBS.
_ GAIL SHISTER,
Knight Ridder Newspapers