David Muir joined ABC news in August 2003 and promptly became one of the network's most visible correspondents, a restless globe-trotter who has covered major stories from Hurricane Katrina to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. He has reported the popular franchise "Made in America" since its inception, is co-anchor of "20/20" and a longtime anchor of the weekend editions of "World News."
But as a child growing up near Syracuse, Muir had one ambition -- to become the next Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings. Tuesday night, he takes a giant step closer to that goal as the anchor of "World News Tonight With David Muir."
Muir, 40, takes over at a critical juncture, with "World News" challenging "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" for evening news supremacy. In a recent conversation, Muir talked about his approach to anchoring "World News."
Many kids growing up in the shadow of Syracuse's Orange want to be football or basketball stars, but you wanted to be Dan, Peter or Tom. What gives?
Every evening, I would excuse myself from playing in the backyard and go inside to watch the evening news . . . I wanted to get out there and see the world, and as a kid, I knew that Peter Jennings had a thirst and hunger to travel the world, too. . . . He was the James Bond of news [and] even at that young age, I knew he had this way of distilling these complicated foreign stories.
You'll be anchor of "World News Tonight," but George Stephanopoulos will be anchor of breaking news. It's an unprecedented division of labor. How will it work in practice?
When we started having conversations about my new role as anchor and managing editor, I brought up my hope with the bosses that I don't want to be chained to the anchor desk. . . . From viewers, there's an expectation that they'll keep seeing me report from the ground, which is what I've done for more than a decade here, and when those stories of great magnitude break, in many cases I'll be standing right there.
So you will be the one on the road, with George back in New York?
There's an expectation [among viewers] that the evening newscast should be even more nimble today than even a couple of years ago. [This transition] is a huge opportunity to take ["World News"] to where the stories are. . . . If there's one thing I hope to do as much or even more is take viewers on a journey.
There's been longstanding criticism -- often from your competitors -- that "World News" had gone soft, or frequently took a more tabloid approach to the news, for example, the Aug. 5 edition leading with the bus crash in Times Square, on the day when top general Harold J. Greene had been assassinated in Afghanistan. What's your reaction to that?
When I read that criticism, I immediately think of all those moments standing in Tahrir Square as Mubarak's men came charging and think about the producer standing there with me, or in Mogadishu when we came under fire. I have a hard time telling the people who were with me risking their lives that we were doing soft news. . . . Would I [as anchor] have led with the bus crash? On any given night this newscast evolves, and it will evolve right up until we come on the air, and that night [the crash] happened as we were going on the air in the East Coast. We didn't know the extent of the injuries. I just always say to the team, we can't look sideways.
Any prediction when -- or if -- "World News Tonight With David Muir" will be the most viewed evening newscast?
I won't touch that.