Special Commentary: Is Paul Lee a Blessing for ABC’s Nightline?

The stars appear to have aligned in Nightline’s favor. ABC public relations staff, ABC News president David Westin, and executive producer James Goldston will no longer have to endure ongoing speculation about the show’s future. It was no secret that Steve McPherson, the man who helped revive ABC’s fortunes, was after Nightline’s real estate. And he probably made several pitches to Disney executive Anne Sweeney, albeit unsuccessful, to boot Nightline out of its time-slot. But the winds have changed direction and McPherson’s successor, Paul Lee, should be a blessing for Nightline. Why? Well, let’s start out with how much Lee and Goldston have in common. Both are former graduates of Oxford and are former BBC journalists. Lee worked for the BBC in Northern Ireland and Goldston served as producer on Newsnight, the network’s flagship current affairs show. And let’s not forget how much the Brits appreciate news programming that serves the public interest. When Lee crossed the pond to launch BBC America, it borrowed a significant portion of programming from BBC World News, the corporation’s 24 hour news outlet.

Against all odds, Nightline has survived and thrived under Goldston. Whether Lee crossed paths with Goldston at Oxford, the BBC or here in the United States is unknown. It’s obvious that the alphabet is not the beeb. And Lee is running a commercial business that cares about two things; the bottom line and mass appeal. But at the end of the day, he’s likely to trust his British sensibilities and support a star within the news division that is giving Madison Avenue something to ponder about.

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