Diane Sawyer The Subject of Harry Shearer’s ‘Found Objects,’ Though Context is Everything

By Alex Weprin 

“ABC World News” anchor Diane Sawyer is the latest subject to be featured in Harry Shearer‘s “Found Objects” series at My Damn Channel. Previous anchors to have their clips appear have included Katie Couric and Dan Rather.

It is the usual fare: raw footage from Joplin, Missouri, before Sawyer went on-air for that evening’s “World News.” What it does not have is context:

So what was really happening?

Sawyer and her crew flew into Joplin, and spent the day reporting on the disaster. Shortly before she was scheduled to anchor live from the town, the crew lost power (that is where Shearer’s video cuts off and switches to a different shot). As the ABC News video below shows, the crew was being pelted by hail and rain, with strong winds presenting a threat.

When Sawyer says “I have nothing,” she was referring to the fact that they lost the prompter in the power outage, and they were unable to print out any sort of script. She ended up doing the entire broadcast live and without a prompter.

Considering they had just spent a day in a disaster zone, speaking to people who lost their homes and in some cases loved ones, a bit of stress is understandable.

In a statement, Shearer writes:

“This is a portrait of a fly-in anchor covering a disaster. Diane may be Diane, but this is pretty much what you get when you send high-priced anchor talent into a place where everything has fallen apart and nothing works. The quote, ‘I have nothing,’ of course, should more appropriately be coming from a tornado victim.'”

In all likelihood, even a seasoned field correspondent would have faced similar challenges given the technical and weather issues the crew faced.

Criticizing highly-paid anchors for flying into disaster zones is certainly fair game (look at the way Katie Couric and Brian Williams covered the situation in Egypt earlier this year for a good example). This time, however, it does not have that sort of impact. Sawyer did her job, and she did it without any sort of script, and in weather conditions that were probably not safe for her or her crew.

Couric in new Hampshire this wasn’t.