Ben Sherwood Shoots ABC News in the Foot in Slow Motion.

Ben Sherwood has just made the biggest mistake he’ll ever make as President of ABC News; he let Jake Tapper go to CNN. Losing Tapper doesn’t immediately hurt ABC as much as it does in the long term and Sherwood’s short term calculation will come back hard to hit ABC eventually.

Politico’s Dylan Byers sums up the Tapper/This Week fiasco nicely with some anonymous quoting

“Jake had his eye on the chair, and he got tired of waiting,” a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO. “I think it became clear to him he wasn’t going to get it.”

The conventional wisdom is Tapper would have never considered CNN as an option had he been given This Week. But after getting passed over twice; first by the square peg/round hole Christianne Amanpour hiring and then again when George Stephanopolous replaced Amanpour and wouldn’t be dislodged, the writing was on the wall for Tapper. For whatever inexcusable miscalculation, Sherwood and ABC couldn’t see him in the chair full time.

It will very likely prove to be an irreplaceable loss. With Tapper, ABC had a talent with the take no prisoners tenacity of Sam Donaldson melded with the Washington D.C. street smarts of Tim Russert. You can’t put a price tag on those kind of traits. They are just too rare to value. With Tapper at This Week, ABC wouldn’t be faced with what NBC was faced with when it named the still not well accepted by everyone for Sundays David Gregory to take over Meet The Press. Gregory has had to grow into his role and build the gravitas he did not come into the job with. It’s still a work in progress. Tapper, like Russert, would have been a natural with gravitas galore. You can bet your ass there are a few Champagne corks popping over at 30 Rock…

And yet Sherwood couldn’t see it. Faced with choosing between lesser known but with a ton of upside Tapper and the well known, well liked, and rock steady but peaked Stephanopolous, Sherwood made the short term safe choice.

ABC will pay for Sherwood’s poorly thought out decision. Not now. But, in a few years when Diane Sawyer steps down from World News and Stepanopolous succeeds her, as everyone in the industry expects him to, ABC will be faced with a power and credibility vacuum at This Week it now has no one capable of filling.

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9 Responses to “Ben Sherwood Shoots ABC News in the Foot in Slow Motion.”

  1. ABC News has also lost John Berman and Amy Walters. Martha Raddatz next?

  2. Come on, Elle. You’re not even trying to turn this into an argument over gun control. ;-)

  3. It always amazed how Tapper was treated at ABC. Did Sherwood just not like the guy or did he not see what everybody else sees? I think Tapper is the best in the business right now. Some of that may be because he comes across as the only one willing to ask Obama tough questions but I’ve always respected him way more than any of the other group thinkers in the press corps.

  4. I commented a few days ago that CNN needed to bring in someone like Tapper or Major Garrett if they were going to make any improvement in the PT ratings so I see this as a good move for the network. I like Tapper and consider him a more acerbic version of Chuck Todd.He has the reputation, smarts and temperament to host a very watchable show in PT. The best slot is probably 8PM against Billo and Ed.

    I think they’ve given him a title and dayside show to hold him in place until the new year, when a major shakeup will happen. I expect they will give him the 9AM slot opposite Todd – for now.

    It will be interesting to see who goes to create a space for Tapper. My guess either King or Blitzer both who are very weak performers.

    The other big question is what do they do with Jessica Yellen, the new CNN Chief White House Correspondent? Do they dump a very competent female reporter to make a place for Tapper or does he give up his WH role for a host job. I think he ends up with a role similar to Todd’s on MSNBC and Yellen gets another job at the network.

    Much more to come on this story.

  5. ^^update: TVNewser says Tapper will get the 4PM slot replacing Blitzer’s first hour and opposite Neil Cavuto ands Martin Bashir.
    Good choice as both the other shows are unwatchable most days. I’ll be checking it out for sure.

  6. Yep, Tapper on CNN should be able to make some headway in that soft timeslot. Though it’s awful early in the afternoon for a marquee signing and a lineup that has so many holes to plug. Shrinking Blitzer back to two hours was much needed, but it surprises me that they took away his first hour, rather than the recently added third. Maybe this is about giving Tapper space to grow into the role, and they’ll bump him later into the evening sometime next year. Or maybe they didn’t want to put him up against ‘Special Report’ on FNC, which may be wise.

  7. Certainly others must have noticed that the praise of Jake Tapper comes almost exclusively from the right? Many on the left loathe him.

    I hope CNN is not counting on peeling off Fox News viewers to watch a show hosted by Mr. Tapper. I just don’t see that as being very likely. It sure hasn’t worked for Erin Burnett.

    However, he’s a good reporter and if initially he is used throughout the day to file beltway-type news reports, that has to help give CNN some badly needed heft and credibility.

  8. I think a significant number of regular FNC viewers would give a CNN show hosted by Jake Tapper a try. Fox News achieved its initial prominence by being a quality alternative to the one-sided offerings that existed, not by being a conservative brand. Its standards and level of honesty has taken some tumbles since then.

  9. It remains to be seen how Tapper will transition to fronting a show – see John King. And CNN using other networks to develop it’s anchors hasn’t worked that well so far (Chung, Joe Johns, Aaron Brown, Campbell Brown, Erin Barnett, Paula Zahn, Soledad O’Brien) – I hope the network is doing more than just adding names and will be retooling behind the scenes as well.
    I could see Martha Raddatz taking over This Week very capably, but ABC does have a very thin bench.

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