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ABC News chief Ben Sherwood promises no massive layoffs, doesn't rule out partnerships

January 10, 2011 | 10:33 am

The new head of ABC News said he has no plans for major layoffs at the division but did not rule out partnerships with other major news organizations down the road.

Sherwood Ben Sherwood, who a few weeks ago succeeded David Westin as president of Walt Disney Co.'s ABC News, said that while there are no current talks with anyone, he is open to the idea. ABC News has flirted in the past with Time Warner's CNN and more recently with Bloomberg Media LP, the financial news giant.

"How can you not think about a partnership with an organzation that has the success that Bloomberg has," Sherwood told reporters at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. Press Tour taking place in Pasadena.

Sherwood also promised no massive layoffs at ABC News. Last year the network cut about 25% of its staff.

"There's no plans for anymore of what's gone on in the last year," Sherwood said.

On the editorial side, Sherwood acknowledged that ABC News needs to speak with one voice. On Saturday, an ABC News website erronously said that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had died in the shooting rampage in Arizona.

"We absolutely have to get it right with one voice," he said, adding later that "accuracy matters most."

Asked how it happened that ABC News chose to relay on a report from another source that the network itself had not confirmed, Sherwood would only say, "A mistake was made."

(Other organizations also reported that Giffords had died, including NPR; the Los Angeles Times briefly posted a Reuters story that erroneously reported that the congresswoman had died.)

As to whether the tone of political coverage in the media had any role in planting seeds for Saturday's shooting, Sherwood said it is way too soon to make that leap. He did add, though, that the mission of ABC News is to "report facts straight down the middle."

Sherwood also defended the content on ABC's "Nightline," which takes a greater interest in pop culture than it has in previous years when it was primarily known as a hard news show.

"Nightline," Sherwood said, gives people "the diet they want of news and information and stories that fall on different places of the spectrum."

--  Joe Flint

Photo: ABC News President Ben Sherwood. Credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC.