Stage(s) Set: A New Generation of Nightly Network Newscasters

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With today’s news of Charles Gibson taking over the nightly news chair at ABC, the third and final slot in the nightly network news machine has been filled — all three networks say, permanently — for a generation of kids who’ll barely look up from their PSPs, Treos, iWhatevers and wrist-tops to notice.

But that’s taking a pessimistic view. As Brian Williams noted during the Overseas Press Club Awards — recalling a young NBC staffer who approached him, iPod in hand, listening to an NPR podcast — news is “not going away.” The way it’s delivered is changing.

So the networks now have Brian, Charlie and Katie to deliver it.

Notes from the gallery:

  • HuffPo: Was the loser in all this Diane Sawyer?
  • LAT: Bob Woodruff would “likely” return to ABC as a correspondent.
  • Marketwatch: Two weeks ago, CBS drew more nightly news viewers to its broadcast than ABC for the first time in five years.

    Notes from TVNewser:

  • Sawyer’s comment in the press release sounded “terse.”
  • Gibson, Vargas get standing ovations in ABC’s offices.
  • When did Elizabeth Vargas “choose” to give up her WNT anchor chair?
  • Last December, ABC said Vargas/Woodruff were the “right team” to lead ABC News into the next generation.

    Your reactions to today’s announcement, via FishbowlNY and TVNewser e-mail:

  • “This summer makes you question how credible the claim that network news is dying really is. CBS News spent $15 million a year to get Katie Couric, ABC took its most trusted face off the program that grosses more money for the network than the evening news, and NBC announces plan for a new bureau in Beirut.”

  • “It’s good news for CBS; ABC is in third place, and Charlie Gibson’s not the answer.”
  • “I think this is a smart move for ABC News. Charlie will probably pick up some Schieffer viewers once he signs off in August … for those looking for the ‘senior traditional voice’ for the news.”
  • “I believe it’s unfair to label WNT’s last five months as a failure. It started off strong. But Woodruff’s injuries and Vargas’ pregnancy changed everything.”
  • “I don’t think there is any disagreement that ABC News had to take some action to buttress its evening news franchise, and Gibson’s promotion is the right move.”
  • “I believe that with this announcement, ABC News has moved from a period of stabilization and will once again show all that it is capable of.”
  • “I don’t watch the broadcast version of WNT, I get the podcast version and think it is a fantastic ‘cast. As Woodruff and Vargas took over WNT I was excited to see a slightly younger crew on the evening news. With Gibson, who is a great broadcaster, I get the sense of the broadcast slowing down and not being as hip, if you will. Not as though the evening news should be hip, but it can’t be a throwback either.”
  • “Anyone who believes that it was Vargas’s idea to leave WNT, is a strong candidate to buy that old bridge.”
  • “Once again ABC News suffers badly because of poor leadership and David Westin being dictated to by Diane Sawyer. Elizabeth Vargas’ agent better start shopping for a new deal with another network … and SOON. She got the shaft here in a big way.”