As news organizations scrambled in 2017 to satisfy the bottomless hunger for information about the new president, James Goldston, the president of ABC News, proclaimed the beginning of “a new golden age” in American journalism, with Donald J. Trump. as its unlikely catalyst .
Mr Goldston, a resident of Britain who had become a US citizen just a few months earlier, said the world waited with anticipation to see what would happen. “One of the things that makes this story so interesting,” he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “is that no one knows where this is going.”
Few, including Mr. Goldston, had foreseen that the story would include the attack of a violent mob on the United States Capitol.
That siege is his focus now — but not as head of network news. Instead, Mr. Goldston helps congressional investigators retell and reframe the day’s events for a weary and polarized nation. With a handful of production staff, his job is to sift through and edit a sizable amount of police CCTV footage, hallway surveillance footage, and documentary filmmaker’s raw footage — hours and hours of footage capturing the uprising as it unfolded. He and his team will help the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack produce TV-ready segments for all of its public hearings the following Monday morning.
More than 20 million Americans saw Mr. Goldston’s hand at work during the commission’s nationwide hearing on Thursday night. They saw tightly edited videos of rioters smashing through windows, and two composed witnesses recounting the destruction and mayhem—a viewing experience that felt more like TV than most congressional hearings.
Read more about the House Committee hearings on January 6
Mr Goldston, 53, rose through the ranks of television news as a producer and eventually landed the top job at ABC News, a position he held for seven years until resigning in early 2021. His work for the committee began in recent weeks, people with knowledge of his actions said.
Mr Goldston was reached by phone on Friday and said he could not speak publicly about what he was doing before the committee.
His work has angered Republicans, who have questioned whether the committee circumvented congressional rules by indicting him without notice. The leader of the Republican House, Representative Kevin McCarthy, has accused Democrats of hiring Mr. Goldston “to choreograph their political theater on Jan. 6.”
At ABC News, Mr. Goldston helped oversee the evolution from a traditional broadcast news division — home to stars like Diane Sawyer, Peter Jennings and Sam Donaldson — to a place of more mass appeal that took the ratings away from rivals like NBC. Chiseled-jaw anchors and correspondents were in. Stories that Mr. Goldston thought were too boring were out. A former director who worked with him recalled that the worst thing a producer or correspondent could hear about a story was that it was “boring.”
Goldston left his first major mark on ABC News as an executive producer by transforming “Nightline,” the lofty nighttime newscast hosted by Ted Koppel, a veteran of Washington reporting who left the show in 2005. under mr. Goldston, the “Nightline” set moved from Washington to New York, and it became a light-hearted program that focused less on politics and policy and more to compete with David Letterman and Jay Leno, who hosted shows in the same 11:35 PM slot. .
The revamp was a chart success, although some critics complained that the show spent too much time on pop culture figures such as Michael Jackson, whose death in 2009 was covered extensively. Within ABC, Mr. Goldston was credited with saving “Nightline” from cancellation.
Goldston’s former colleagues said that when he took over as president of ABC News in 2014, he transformed an editorial culture that was often respectful of 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 Mrs. Sawyer stepped down as anchor of “World News Tonight” in 2014, a few months before her 69th birthday, and Mr Goldston named David Muir, who was 40, to replace her. He brought the popular daytime talk show “The View” under the purview of the news department and away from ABC’s more entertainment-oriented daytime department.
Mr. Goldston had relatively few direct relations with Mr. Trump over the years. But like most top news executives, he remembers getting the occasional phone call from him — mostly to complain about the coverage. In 2019, the two sat together at the same table for a dinner in London in honor of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Speaking at a Canadian media conference in early 2017, Goldston described the Trump presidency as double-edged. It was harmful, he said, to be called the “enemy of the people.” But it had also given journalists “a real clarity about what we’re doing.”