THE NEWSCAST: "World News With Diane Sawyer"
WHEN | WHERE: Weeknights at 6:30 on ABC/7, starting tonight.
WHAT'S NEW: An anchor of "World News" - only the fifth in a quarter century.
WHY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON?
This is what could be called a stealth launch, and kudos to ABC for thinking of it. In 2006, CBS sent Katie Couric off into the wild blue anchor yonder in September. Media and audience attention was intense, and ultimately withering. This way, Sawyer gets comfortable in the chair and works out the kinks.
WHAT'S SAWYER SAYING?
Normally press-shy anyway, the great anchor sphinx of network TV news hasn't done any prelaunch interviews. (Probably doesn't want her words to come back to haunt her.)
WILL 'WORLD NEWS' CHANGE UNDER SAWYER?
Details to come, but one industry leader who has worked on other news transitions says: "Every anchor wants to do something different. Maybe there are areas that she's more interested in than others," but "the issue that applies to anybody is how much you change the show. The news audience is the audience that is most resistant to change." Expect a traditional newscast, in other words.
Years ago, the rap - or perhaps canard - about Sawyer was that she couldn't read a TelePrompTer, and so was not big-time anchor material. No one brings this up about Sawyer anymore. Ten successful years at "Good Morning America" gave Sawyer a PhD in 'prompter, and everything else an anchor of "World News" must master; just ask her predecessor, Charlie Gibson. She is supremely qualified to handle this gig, and well should be - she's been preparing for 30 years.
Before joining CBS News in 1978, Sawyer helped Richard Nixon write his memoirs, and later told The New York Times, "I spent a lot of time with him and I learned a great deal about self-discipline and self-renewal during those years."
Finally, the payoff is here.
Is the Omniscient TV Anchor even important anymore? Don't kid yourself. This remains the best and most visible job in all of journalism. Will viewers accept her? In time, yes, though Brian Williams retains the crown (ABC is in second place). For now, an exciting chapter in an extraordinary career begins.
DIANE SAWYER'S RESUMÉ
1963 - Winner, America's Junior Miss Pageant
1967 - Graduated Wellesley College
1967-70 - Weather reporter, WLKY-TV in Louisville, Ky.
1970-74 - Worked for the Nixon administration, including the White House press office
1977 - Helped prepare Nixon for his famous interview with David Frost
1978 - Joined CBS News as a political correspondent
1981-84 - Co-anchor, "CBS Morning News"
1984-89 - Correspondent, "60 Minutes"
1998-2000 - Co-host, "20/20"
1999-Dec. 11, 2009 - Co-host, "Good Morning America"
Today - Begins anchoring ABC's "World News"