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James Goldston, Former TV News Chief, Helps the Jan. 6 Committee


Follow live updates on the House committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

As news organizations scrambled in 2017 to satisfy the bottomless appetite for information in regards to the recent president, James Goldston, the president of ABC News, declared the dawn of “a recent golden age” in American journalism, with Donald J. Trump as its improbable catalyst.

Mr. Goldston, a native of Britain who had change into a U.S. citizen only just a few months before, said the world was waiting with anticipation to see what would occur next. “One in all the things that makes this story so interesting,” he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “is no one knows where this goes.”

Few, including Mr. Goldston, foresaw that the story would come with a violent mob’s assault on the U.S. Capitol.

That siege is now his focus — but not as a network news chief. As an alternative, Mr. Goldston helps congressional investigators retell and reframe the events of that day for a weary and polarized nation. With a handful of production staff, it’s his job to sift through and edit down a voluminous amount of images from police body cams, hallway surveillance video and raw footage from a documentarian — hours and hours of recordings that captured the revolt because it unfolded. He and his team will help the House committee that’s investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack produce TV-ready segments for all its public hearings, the following one on Monday morning.

Greater than 20 million Americans watched Mr. Goldston’s hand at work through the committee’s nationally televised hearing on Thursday evening. They saw tightly edited video of rioters smashing through windows, and two composed witnesses who recounted the destruction and mayhem — viewing that felt more made-for-TV than most congressional hearings.

Mr. Goldston, 53, rose in the tv news ranks as a producer, eventually getting the highest job at ABC News, a position he held for seven years until stepping down in early 2021. His work for the committee began in recent weeks, individuals with knowledge of its actions said.

Reached by phone on Friday, Mr. Goldston said he couldn’t speak publicly about what he was doing for the committee.

His work has drawn the ire of Republicans, who’ve questioned whether the committee bypassed congressional rules by bringing him on without giving proper notice. The Republican House leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy, has accused Democrats of hiring Mr. Goldston “to choreograph their Jan. 6 political theater.”

At ABC News, Mr. Goldston helped oversee the evolution of a standard broadcast news division — home to stars like Diane Sawyer, Peter Jennings and Sam Donaldson — right into a place with more mass appeal that drew rankings away from rivals like NBC. Chiseled-jaw anchors and correspondents were in. Stories that Mr. Goldston deemed too dull were out. One former executive who worked with him recalled that the worst thing a producer or correspondent could hear him say a couple of story was that it was “boring.”

Mr. Goldston left his first major imprint on ABC News as an executive producer by transforming “Nightline,” the high-minded, late-night newscast hosted by Ted Koppel, a veteran of Washington coverage who left the show in 2005. Under Mr. Goldston, the “Nightline” set moved from Washington to Recent York, and it became a breezier program that was less focused on politics and policy and aimed to compete more with David Letterman and Jay Leno, who hosted shows in the identical 11:35 p.m. slot.

The revamping was a rankings success whilst some critics complained that the show spent an excessive amount of time on popular culture figures like Michael Jackson, whose death in 2009 it covered extensively. Inside ABC, Mr. Goldston was credited with saving “Nightline” from cancellation.

Mr. Goldston’s former colleagues said that when he took the helm as president of ABC News in 2014 he transformed a newsroom culture that was often deferential to top correspondents and created a more top-down structure that empowered senior producers and executives.

Under his leadership, ABC News made several changes that signaled a culture shift. When Ms. Sawyer stepped down as anchor of “World News Tonight” in 2014, just a few months shy of her 69th birthday, Mr. Goldston named David Muir, who was 40, to exchange her. He brought the favored daytime talk show “The View” under the purview of the news division and away from ABC’s more entertainment-focused daytime unit.

Mr. Goldston had relatively few direct dealings with Mr. Trump over time. But like most high-level news executives, he has recalled being on the receiving end of an occasional phone call from him — mainly to complain about coverage. In 2019, the 2 sat together at the identical table for a dinner in London honoring Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

When he spoke at a Canadian media conference in early 2017, Mr. Goldston described the Trump presidency as double-edged. It was harmful, he said, to be known as the “enemy of the people.” Nevertheless it had also given journalists “a real clarity of purpose about what we do.”

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