"We must move boldly and promptly." So wrote ABC News President David Westin in a remarkably candid memo to his news organization on Tuesday. The memo, in essence, told ABC News staff that his respected network news operation must "embrace what is new, rather than being overwhelmed by it." Westin was referring to the advent of the digital age in the news industry -- a sea change that Westin said "makes our business more competitive than its ever been."
From there, Westin's memo went on to detail how he intends to change the way ABC News operates. The memo made it sound as if ABC News is about to experience the same kind of wrenching change that resulted last year in a very different way of producing newscasts at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 here in Chicago.
Westin said ABC News will expand its use of digital journalists, and editorial staff will shoot and edit their own material. Westin also said there will be extensive training in new technology. But for many staffers, Westin's most unsettling words no doubt came near the end of the memo when he wrote that "many job descriptions will be different, different skill sets may be required, and, yes, we will likely have substantially fewer people on staff at ABC News."
Will this new way of doing business at ABC News filter down to WLS-Channel 7, which is also owned by ABC News parent the Walt Disney Co. "The changes at ABC News will have no impact on us for the foreseeable future," said WLS general manager Emily Barr, adding "Channel 7 operates completely independently of the ABC network news organization."