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EntertainmentColumnistsVerne Gay

Sawyer off to solid start as new 'World News' anchor

Keenly aware of the dangers of hype and star-driven hooey, ABC wanted a soft launch for Diane Sawyer Monday night, and therefore sent the new anchor of "World News" out into one of the deadest news weeks of the year.

But the network need not have been so shy: Diane was just fine.

Because it's considered gauche and sexist to comment on the appearance of female anchors, you won't read in this review that Sawyer looked smashing, and particularly elegant, in a dark suit with open white shirt, which framed her nicely against a dark blue background.

So go ahead and strike that from the record.

But she did seem genuinely happy, animated - more so than usual during hundreds of outings as a sub on this program over the years - and amiable as the new anchor. ("Avuncular," like Walter Cronkite? No - a word that will never apply to Sawyer.)

Moreover, the program that surrounded her was noteworthy for its absence of bells and hardly any whistles. The message here was loud and clear. Charlie Gibson is gone (as of last Friday), but the show remains very much the same.

Sawyer had an interview with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who droned on, but he had one memorable reference to the new anchorwoman, calling her "respectable lady." Credit to Sawyer for not laughing out loud.

She began her new job earnestly - "it is so good to be with you here tonight" - and ended with a nod to her predecessor, Gibson: "I hope you had a good day and great night."

His successor certainly did.

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