Diane Sawyer will succeed Charlie Gibson as anchor of ABC World News when he retires in January, the network announced Wednesday. Sawyer will leave her current post as anchor of “Good Morning America,” where she has been since 1999. The announcement came as a surprise to many, and neither Sawyer nor Gibson gave interviews Wednesday. ABC News president David Westin said that it was Gibson’s decision.
Fellow reporter Connie Chung praised Sawyer’s appointment as “another nail in the coffin of the old boys’ network.” Katie Couric became the first female solo anchor of CBS Evening News in 2006, Sawyer will be the second.
“You’re going to have, for the first time ever, two women competing as solo anchors in a television framework that just–within living memory–sort of destroyed every woman who tried to do it,” said Richard Wald, a former news executive at ABC and NBC.
Barbara Walters became the first female co-anchor on television in when she served a brief stint on ABC “Evening News” with Harry Reasoner from 1976-78. Connie Chung, the second female co-anchor, served her short-lived term opposite Dan Rather on the CBS “Evening News” from 1993-95.
Sawyer, whose GMA presence brings in an estimated $50 million a year for ABC, might be the jolt ABC needs to push ahead in the ratings race. During the last week of August, “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams,” averaged 7.9 million viewers, about 800,000 more than Mr. Gibson’s “World News.”
In response to the announcement, Katie Couric praised her new evening news rival, “Diane is one of the hardest-working people I know and this new assignment is the latest achievement in an already accomplished and illustrious career.”