The Morning Fix: Shakeup at ABC News! ‘American’ kills at box office. Hallmark Channel gets a makeover.


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After the coffee. Before realizing summer slipped by without a real vacation.

Lead story at ABC News. David Westin, the longtime head of ABC News who has probably spent as much time having to figure out how to cut costs as he has on how to best cover the world, told his staff Monday afternoon that he was resigning at the end of the year. With 13 years in the job, Westin was the most senior of the broadcast news presidents. Westin, a lawyer by trade and a former general counsel of ABC, was seen as an outsider when he was tapped to succeed the legend Roone Arledge. Eventually, though, he won over the troops. His challenge-filled tenure was marked by several big changes within ABC News, including the passing of Peter Jennings and the departure of Ted Koppel. No replacement was named for Westin and there is no clear cut No. 2. If recent history is any guide, don’t be surprised if ABC and its parent Walt Disney tap someone who doesn’t necessarily have a lot of journalism experience for the gig. Westin’s exit will also probably jump-start speculation that ABC will try to find a partner such as CNN or Bloomberg to help it shoulder the costs of maintaining a news division. More on Westin’s exit from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post and Daily Beast.


Labor Day blues. George Clooney’s moody thriller ‘The American’ took in $16.4 million at the box office this weekend. That was enough to make it No. 1, beating ‘Machete,’ which sliced its way to an impressive $14 million, and the romantic comedy ‘Going the Distance,’ which didn’t, taking in only $8.6 million. Box office analysis from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News. Unlike other holiday weekends, Labor Day is not traditionally a big movie weekend as kids are back at college or on their way back, football is starting and families are trying to squeeze out last-minute vacations. As for me, as promised, I went to see ‘The American.’ I thought it was beautiful to look at, but felt like I was watching a sequel and hadn’t seen the original. Apparently I wasn’t alone in my lukewarm assessment as word of mouth on the movie was not good. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter offers its summer box office report card.

Stop rushing to judgment. Remember how everyone said Lionsgate’s ‘Kick-Ass’ got kicked because it didn’t open as big as everyone thought? Well, the movie will still turn out to be a huge money maker. The New York Times looks at the disturbing trend of the media to declare winners and losers at the box office based on often misguided projections and early results.

When you care to send the very best, send Martha. Next week, the Hallmark Channel gets a makeover from Martha Stewart. The lifestyle diva will be on the hook for eight hours of programming on the cable network that used to primarily focus on middle America with family programming. The channel has a lot riding on its Martha move, parent Crown Media has struggled financially and had a heavy debt load. Furthermore, Hallmark does not get the big subscriber fees that its rival cable networks with similar ratings pull in. The Los Angeles Times looks at Martha’s makeover for the Hallmark channel.

Fall TV survival guide. Advertising Age tries to tells you everything you’ll need to know about the new TV season, including what an ‘American Idol’ without Simon Cowell will do in the ratings, how social media are or aren’t changing television and whether viewers will come back to Friday night now that the networks are trying to program it again. Also, veteran advertising industry executive Steve Sternberg on why the performance of the returning shows is just as important as the debuts of the new crop of comedies and dramas.

Does anyone really care anymore? Fox waited until late Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend to announce the obvious -- that Kara DioGuardi would not return to ‘American Idol’ in January. Now the network is expected to announce its new judges to fill the empty seats left by the departure of Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and DioGuardi. The two leading candidates continue to be Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. Tyler’s deal is believed to be done while talks with Lopez have been challenging at times. At this point, though, unless it is not those two, the announcement will likely be met with a collective yawn. Well, I’ll be yawning anyway. Here’s the latest from Variety.

You know what they say about rumors. Every few months the gossip starts up again about CBS News and ABC News looking for partners. Of course, now with ABC’s news chief David Westin leaving, that will only add fuel to the fire. These days, CBS is most often linked to Time Warner’s CNN while ABC lately has been mentioned as a possible partner for Bloomberg Media. Broadcasting & Cable takes its shot at analyzing the rumors and what CBS and ABC need to do to maintain healthy news businesses. Here’s a crazy thought. Get over the idea that you need some big name with a big paycheck to anchor your news and put that money back into reporting. I know, I know. That’s crazy talk!


Inside the Los Angeles Times: John Horn on what scored big at Telluride. ‘America’s Top Model’ has some new top guest judges this season.

-- Joe Flint

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