PASADENA, CALIF. (AP) - The new president of ABC News said Monday that his organization needs to work with more unity, and its weekend coverage of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting proved it.
Unlike rivals CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News Channel, ABC did not broadcast Saturday’s false report that Gifford had died in Tucson, Ariz., which originated with National Public Radio. But for 10 minutes, the ABC.com website used an incorrect headline in a banner.
“It really hit me in the heart when I listened to what the family went through and reminded me that we have to get it right,” said Ben Sherwood, who was appointed last month to replace David Westin as ABC News president.
Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, called an ABC affiliate in Houston to clarify that his wife was alive, after hearing media reports that she was dead, the network said.
NBC also issued a statement Monday saying it was “terribly sorry for this inexcusable error.”
Sherwood said it’s important to stick with the facts in discussing possible causes for the gunman’s rampage on Saturday. “We are not an opinion network,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean ABC should resist discussing potential motives for the attempted assassination, he said. Some media outlets have been criticized for its use of background information about angry political dialogue, like Sarah Palin’s online exhortation to supporters: “Don’t retreat; reload.”
Sherwood also said that he wants to “fix” the Sunday morning political talk show “This Week.” The show has sunk in the ratings since Christiane Amanpour took over as anchor from George Stephanopoulos.
“We can create a format for her that puts her into a place where she’s doing what she does best,” he said.
The show is produced in Washington, D.C., even though executive producer James Goldston and Amanpour both live in the New York area.
Sherwood said the show is an important part of ABC’s Washington presence and that he has no plans to move it, although he stopped short of saying that would never be done. He said he hasn’t discussed that issue with Amanpour.