First Amendment Service Award

This award honors professionals in local or network news who work in an off-air, management, largely behind-the-scenes capacity.

James Goldston
President, ABC News

James Goldston
ABC NEWS – James Goldston, President, ABC News (ABC/ Heidi Gutman)

Acceptance Remarks
– Excerpt –

Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you to the RTDNF. Thank you to the brilliant Martha Raddatz, as always. Thank you Martha. We are fortunate to have – and to Pierre – as the great men and women of ABC news I can’t tell you what a privilege and a joy is to work with the people you saw on that video, the people are that here tonight from ABC News. Amazing team of people with a passion and commitment for their work that just shows through it and every single thing they do and every call they make and every piece that we see across all of our platforms every single day. So.

So I’ve had a long relationship with the First Amendment. About a century now. My grandfather came to America – came during the Great Depression. He left Southampton on the RMS Equitania coming to New York. He had no money. Not a penny to his name. And he rode on the trains with the Oakies and rode all the way across America looking for work and rode all the way to San Francisco. Ended up picking oranges in an orange grove in Los Gatos near San Francisco and he came back. Came back to England kind of wide eyed with tales of this great country and its spirit, and those stories have always, he would tell them from his child that those stories always stuck with me. I grew up with a fascination with America and a profound appreciation for its values and a hunger to follow in his footsteps. And so 15 years ago, thanks to ABC News, I got the chance to do that. So me, my wife Laura, who’s here tonight, we had two kids then got three kids now. So we wanted to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps so we got on the boat too. Got on the boat. Same place in Southhampton. Rode the, rode the boat over. Got up at dawn as we came into New York Harbor to salute the Statue of Liberty, a great symbol of freedom, as we came into New York.

And you know I think it’s it’s it’s a profound thing. When you arrive in a country as a journalist and you arrive in a country where you know that the Constitution itself protects our freedom to be journalists. It’s a profound privilege and I give thanks for every single day. And a fellow immigrant, Canadian, called Peter Jennings. He felt exactly the same way – came for the same reasons and that’s why he carried a pocket sized copy of the Constitution in his back pocket. Everywhere he went on all those trips he did all those years. So fast forward 15 years to this moment. An interesting moment. I have to say you know came a little wide eyed to this country. It’s painful to me to hear journalism and most important democratic freedom called out as ‘fake news’ and to witness what feels like like the pervasive and sometimes the deliberate destruction of our national discourse. Make no mistake. We are not the problem.

. . .

Make no mistake. We are not the problem here. But the threat we face as journalists in this moment is very very real. We’re under sustained attack and you feel it every single day. From bad actors who are mounting an assault on the truth and an assault on their work every single day. And when you look at the numbers you know the numbers have to be troubling to all of us in this room. Sixty four percent of Americans say that false reporting has caused a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. On social media, a fake news story, a false story – 70 percent more likely to be shared than a story that’s true. Sixty-nine percent of American adults say their trust the news media media has decreased over the past decade and that erosion of trust in media is undermining an industry that we cherish. And it’s dividing us as Americans and clearly we have a lot of work to do to protect our integrity and protect our fundamental freedoms and never ever take them for granted.

Last week a journalist who works for ABC News amongst others, Cody Weddle, was arrested in Caracas, in a country that cracks down on straightforward reporting and that doesn’t enshrine our rights. He was accused of treason and espionage. He was hooded and interrogated by Venezuelan counterintelligence agents for 12 hours. They raided his apartment. They went through his phone and they demanded to know the names of his sources and his colleagues. Cody was harassed and detained for nothing more than telling the world what he sees happening in a country gripped by a political and humanitarian crisis. And he’s far from the only one. This year 36 journalists have been arrested in Venezuela. Some of them are still in custody. And we stand with all of them and of course we won’t be deterred. And tonight we’re back in Caracas with a team right now reporting on that story again. And this moment I feel like it calls for us to be better at what we do than we’ve ever been before. It is our duty to bolster the real news and discredit the news that you can’t trust. We have to be straightforward in doing that. Got to dig deep. Get it right. Don’t take sides. Own our mistakes when we make them. And when we do that I’m optimistic that good journalism will prevail over bad. And indeed we’re seeing amazing examples, inspiring examples of that this evening.

And I believe that with thoughtfulness and care and nurturing this can truly be a new era of journalistic greatness. And I’m counting on it. If you’ve heard it you know I’m a young American. Two years old! My family and I we became American citizens two years ago and we proudly took an oath to uphold the Constitution and you know it’s something that we feel every single day. And I know my wife feels the same way. She’s a journalist too. Works as a reporter and an anchor for the BBC. And it’s something that we’re trying to to instill in our children too. You know that these are profound values and all of us in this room I know are doing everything that we can in support of the First Amendment. And so I’m proud to receive this award on behalf of all of us ABC News and I thank you all very much indeed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

James Goldston was named president of ABC News in April 2014. He oversees all aspects of the news division, including broadcast, digital and radio, a combined audience that is unmatched in the United States.

During Goldston’s tenure leading ABC News, the network has responded rapidly to cover breaking news in Cuba, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, Paris and London, and across the country from San Bernardino to Las Vegas and Orlando. ABC News has scored exclusive interviews with former FBI director James Comey, President Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, among many others, and hosted landmark town halls with President Barack Obama and Pope Francis.


Under Goldston’s leadership ABC’s newscasts are delivering their most competitive seasons in years while expanding their reach on new digital networks. “Good Morning America” is No. 1 for the seventh straight year, and “World News Tonight with David Muir” won the 2016-2017 television season for the first time in 21 years and is No. 1 for the third year in a row.  The news division recently launched ABC News Live, a 24/7 breaking news and live events streaming channel, acquired renowned data journalism organization FiveThirtyEight and expanded Good Morning America to a third hour.  From 2014-2016, ABC News won three consecutive Murrow Awards for Overall Excellence in Television and Radio, an historic first for any network.

From March 2012-April 2014, Goldston served as senior vice president for Content and Development for ABC News. In this role, he oversaw ABC News programs and executive producers, and led the development of new shows for broadcast, cable and other distribution.

Prior to his role as senior vice president, Goldston was the senior executive producer of “Good Morning America” from February 2011 to March 2012. During his tenure, the broadcast saw significant ratings gains as it closed in on NBC’s 16-year winning streak in the mornings and covered a wide range of breaking news stories from around the world with distinction.

Goldston joined ABC News in 2004 as a senior producer of prime-time specials and investigative reports, and was promoted shortly thereafter to executive producer of “Nightline,” a position he held until 2011. Under his leadership, the program grew to become the No. 1 show in late-night and won a string of awards including multiple Emmys® and the prestigious Peabody award.

Before joining ABC News, Goldston was the executive producer of Britain’s most-watched current affairs program, ITV1’s “Tonight with Trevor McDonald,” from 2002-2004. There he produced a series of celebrated documentaries including “Shock and Awe” – “Tonight”’s award-winning coverage of the Iraq War and the multi-award-winning “Living with Michael Jackson.” During his tenure as both producer and executive producer, “Tonight” was honored with the Royal Television Society’s prestigious Program of the Year Award three times in five years.

Goldston began his career in television as a producer for several BBC News programs, including “Newsnight,” the network’s nightly news analysis show, as well as BBC’s flagship current affairs program, “Panorama.”

A graduate of Jesus College, Oxford University, Goldston resides in New York City with his family.

Goldston - Murrow Awards

First Amendment Service Award 2019

Updated on 2020-01-03T17:52:40+00:00, by firstawards.