Long time ABC news personality Diane Sawyer is stepping down from her post as anchor of the networks evening news program World News with Diane Sawyer. The seasoned news veteran is being replaced by weekend news anchor and Sawyer’s occasional evening news fill-in anchor David Muir.
Having been at the helm of ABC World News since 2009, 68-year-old Diane Sawyer will be leaving the nightly news desk as of September 2 and moving into a position to spearhead a team that will produce investigative reports and specials. It is reported that Sawyer will retain her title with the network as ABC News Anchor.
David Muir, the pretty-boy who has been dubbed the “Brad Pitt of News Anchors” has been groomed for greatness with ABC news since his arrival at the network in 2003. Muir’s star has been on the rise at the network with some of the most highest profile assignments in recent years. From extensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina to the Israeli war with Hezbollah, Muir also maintains a post as co-host of ABC’s weekly news magazine show 20/20. Muir has been a protegé of sorts to Diane Sawyer who has kept the 40-year-old broadcast journalist by her side and shared assignments on many of the network’s biggest news stories.
Adding to the shake-up at ABC, many industry insiders had predicted that solid news man George Stephanopoulos who currently holds a co-anchor position with Robin Roberts at the very profitable Good Morning America, would have been the obvious choice to eventually take the prestigious main chair of the evening news if and when Sawyer ever stepped down. What appears to be a consolation prize for being passed over for the spot, Stephanopoulos has been handed the title of “Chief Anchor” at the network. The title outlines that Stephanopoulos would anchor all breaking news and hold center stage during key events like election coverage.
With Sawyer out from behind the desk and Stephanopoulos maintaining his spot in the a.m. hours, analysts are saying that ABC is favoring youth over journalistic gravitas and gender. For the time being, Diane Sawyer will be on record as the last woman to anchor an evening newscast, a glass ceiling that was first shattered by Katie Couric at CBS who was the first woman to solo anchor the evening news. It is reported that no female journalists at ABC were in the running for Sawyer’s pending vacancy. While Muir will be holding the most prestigious chair at ABC news, George Stephanopoulos and his newly appointed title, anoints him as the most powerful anchor at the network.
Dominating in the ratings, the ABC News division produces the lions share of the networks revenue. After years of being in the number two spot, Good Morning America, with their refreshed super fast-paced infotainment format has at long last surpassed NBC’s Today Show as television’s number one morning news program. On the night-side, the network’s flagship news outlet ABC World News has maintained a marginal lead over rivals CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News respectively in the favored 25 to 54 demographic that news advertisers tend to play to. Putting the younger Muir in the evening news chair is a gamble ABC is hoping will bring in the younger and more profitable viewers. Thinking long-term and being cautious not to rock the boat too harsh, ABC executives are doing what they believe to be in the best interest of their viewership, their sponsors, and their shareholders while trying to keep their key on-air talent happy.
By Hal Banfield