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

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.”