Jon Banner says it’s high time the evening news got real. “Both the mission of the broadcast and our online mission is similar in that I want it to have a more real feel.” That means a more conversational approach and less “shouting from the rooftops” in the form of new announcer Mike Rowe. And the changes began last night on the debut of “World News with Diane Sawyer.”
Banner is the dean of network evening news EPs having held the ABC post since 2003 when it was still called “World News Tonight.” Banner joined ABC News in 1989 as a desk assistant. We talked with him earlier today:
TVNewser: Day one is getting pretty good reviews, how did it feel in the control room?
Banner: I thought it was a solid first program. We’ve never placed a lot of emphasis on the first program but it felt pretty good. We have some things to work on… little technical flubs which are fine when you go through a process of changing the entire look of a program in two days.
TVNewser: Tell us about the issue at the end of the first block.
Banner: Just a button that didn’t work… but by in large we’re very happy. The content of the program was superb. Very hard hitting… very conversational. So we were happy and I’m glad it’s over so we can get past this and get on to producing the next couple thousand programs.
TVNewser: A big first day interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Diane traveled to Copenhagen to talk with him. Should we expect to see her on the road a fair amount?
Banner: I wouldn’t be surprised. We spent so much time planning for other things that this interview happened to come up. It was not something that we were planning to do for the first program. We had a long-standing request in for him and he called us back in the middle of last week. I would not be surprised to see her travel a little more. But like all things, we’ll take that as it comes.
TVNewser: The camera shots are tighter than when Charlie anchored, is this an effort to bring a sense of intimacy between Diane and the viewers?
Banner: Actually, I’ll tell you the real reason. It was a technical reason. The way we are producing graphics for her is different than the way we were producing graphics for Charlie. It allows us to get a little bit closer with the camera. I think it’s always a good thing, no matter who’s anchoring. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for some time.
TVNewser: You’ve been at the helm of World News for six years. From Peter, to Bob and Elizabeth, through Charlie’s tenure. That’s a long time in this business, how long would you like to be heading up World News with Diane Sawyer?
Banner: As long as they’ll have me. This is one of a very few of the best jobs in television for a producer. I have been blessed to have worked with some of the greatest talent in the business. And having an opportunity to work with Diane, who I haven’t worked with as closely as this, during my time at ABC is just a wonderful, wonderful time for me. I am incredibly excited and energized by the new program and I think it’s a great opportunity for us and the entire news division to be showcasing our terrific reporting and really try to make a play going forward.
• WebNewser has more on the new online offerings of “World News,” including “The Conversation.” “The mission of the broadcast and our online mission is similar,” Banner says. “I want it to have a more real feel. This is not always 100% polished, this is an attempt at being a little bit more real.”