V&W: ABC’s Sharon Contingency Plan

By Brian 

“Hypothetically, if [Ariel] Sharon died, who would anchor ABC News coverage?,” I asked on Wednesday, noting that Elizabeth Vargas was in West Virginia and Bob Woodruff was in Iran. An anonymous tipster explained that Charlie Gibson and Barbara Walters were standing by on the WNT set in NYC. Today’s New York Times adds this interesting detail:

“Ten minutes before she was to introduce the main 6:30 p.m. newscast, Mr. [Jon] Banner (with Mr. Westin at his side) called Ms. Vargas to walk through what would happen if Mr. Sharon died during the half-hour newscast.

Because she was technologically removed from New York, Mr. Banner suggested that, if necessary, Ms. Vargas announce his death and then turn the broadcast over to Mr. Gibson and Barbara Walters, who were already in place in Mr. Jennings’s old studio.

Ms. Vargas argued, strenuously, that she had been following the story on the wires all day, and was confident she could interview correspondents from as far away as Israel, even with a delay of several seconds between her questions and others’ answers over the satellite.

Mr. Banner took her case to Mr. Westin, and her argument won the day, though the contingency plan would prove unnecessary as Mr. Sharon survived the night…”