Julie Townsend, head of communications for ABC News since the fall of 2014, will leave the Disney unit as it prepares to welcome a new president.
Townsend, a VP who has supervised outreach on behalf of flagship news programs ranging from “Good Morning America” to “World News Tonight,” will leave May 14 “to lead global consumer communications at an iconic American company” that she said in a memo to staffers would be revealed at a later date.
“This was not an easy decision to make, especially knowing a new president of ABC News will start in a few weeks,” she said in a memo reviewed Monday. “But one of the things I’ve loved about working in news is the opportunity to learn new things – and now, after the last decade at ABC News and 14 at the company overall, I have the chance to learn a whole new business in an entirely different industry. It was simply too good and fascinating an opportunity to pass up.”
ABC News is a division in transition, with a new president, former CBS News executive Kim Godwin, expected to take its reins in May. It is also without a top producer at “GMA,” its flagship program.
During Townsend’s tenure, two of ABC News most prominent programs, “World News Tonight” and “20/20” saw new increases in viewership and outmaneuvered competitors on rival networks. She has also steered ABC News through moments of crisis, such as a mammoth lawsuit filed against the news operation by a South Dakota meat producer that resulted in a landmark settlement and the departure of Barbara Fedida, a senior ABC News executive whose alleged behavior toward staffers came under scrutiny.
“Julie has been a steadfast and passionate champion of ABC News throughout her time here,” said Derek Medina, executive vice president of ABC News, in a note to employees. “She’s helped launch new programs and strategic initiatives, celebrate every important milestone in the news division and been a trusted advisor to me and so many of us.”
Townsend has been with ABC News since 2011. Prior to that, she worked with NBCUniversal in its corporate communications department. Townsend started her career with ABC as a PR coordinator for “Nightline” and “This Week” in the ABC News Washington Bureau in 2001.