Kim Godwin announced Sunday to employees at ABC that she is stepping down from leading the network’s news division. Godwin, the first Black woman to head the news division for a major television network, ends her tenure after various forces within and outside the company questioned, doubted and curtailed her leadership.

Godwin steps down after criticisms of ABC News

Godwin reportedly told employees Sunday about her decision to step down after three years in her role. “Anyone who’s passionate about what we do knows there’s no other business like it, so this was not an easy or quick decision,” the note said, according to the New York Times. “I’m certain it’s the right one for me as I look to the future and prioritize what’s most important for me and my family,” she added. Godwin had initially been hired by ABC News as an executive vice president in charge of promoting diversity before she took the top spot at the news division. Since assuming that role three years ago, Godwin had been criticized for the sagging ratings of the network’s GMA show, which was losing ground to rival programs on NBC and CBS. Godwin was also criticized for her handling of the public revelation that ABC morning anchors T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, then married to other people, were in a romantic relationship; Godwin initially kept the pair on the air together before they were eventually fired.

Godwin’s leadership questioned and undermined

The Los Angeles Times reported that people within the news division did not like that Godwin “reportedly led “Happy Birthday” singalongs at morning meetings and emphasized life-work balance,” among other complaints made against her leadership style. She was also unpopular for getting rid of long-time executives within the division as part of a larger set of cutbacks implemented by Disney in 2023. Godwin appeared to lose the confidence of Disney, ABC’s parent company; in February, Disney appointed Debra OConnell as president of News Group and Networks, placing her above Godwin and essentially curtailing Godwin’s authority over the news division.

Questions about bias

In the lead-up to Godwin’s resignation, anonymously sourced articles critical of her were published by outlets such as CNN, which claimed she was “in hot water” with her bosses and “skating on thinner and thinner ice.” The reporting contrasted Godwin with OConnell, who was described as a “well-liked and respected media veteran.” Prior to the announcement of Godwin’s departure from her position at ABC News, the National Association of Black Journalists issued a statement supporting Godwin. Their release condemned anonymous reporting that they saw as undermining Godwin’s authority and ignoring support that she enjoyed within ABC News. According to the statement, sources within ABC News who supported Godwin thought the opposition to her was “racially motivated” and driven by her not fitting into the “good old boy network.”

Godwin’s departure marks another instance of Black leaders and particularly Black women in positions of power coming under scrutiny and, according to some, unfair standards. Time will tell how ABC and Disney handle her departure and what it means for the future of broadcast news.