Another big change in the world of network news. ABC just announced that Charles Gibson will step down from his post as anchor of "World News" at the end of the year, and retire from ABC. Diane Sawyer will take his place, becoming the second woman - after CBS's Katie Couric - to anchor a network newscast on her own. (Suddenly, NBC's Brian Williams, who has been leading in the ratings, is the odd man out.)
Gibson first took the job in May 2006, replacing the co-anchor team of Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas. (At the time, Vargas was pregnant and Woodruff had been seriously injured while reporting in Iraq.) He had previously been co-anchoring "Good Morning America" with Sawyer. In an email to ABC staff announcing his departure, Gibson wrote: "The program is now operating at a very accelerated, but steady, cruising speed, and I think it is an opportune time for a transition -- both for the broadcast and for me. Life is dynamic; it is not static."
Sawyer, currently the co-anchor of "Good Morning America," will assume her new role in January. Her ascendancy will test the longstanding theories about the role gender has played in Couric's ratings struggles and perceived lack of gravitas. After all, Sawyer currently holds the same entertainment-news hybrid job Couric held for so long at NBC's "Today" before she took over the "CBS Evening News." Still, their on-air personas have always been different. Couric thrived, then suffered, from the perception that she was chatty and casual. Sawyer has always had a more distant air that could be viewed as either regal or cold, depending on your perspective, but that certainly fits the more traditional -- and male -- persona of the network anchor.
Sawyer also has a long history in the news division. She served in the Nixon White House before joining CBS as a State Department correspondent in the mid-1970s, and went on to become the first female correspondent for "60 Minutes." She joined ABC in 1989 as co-anchor of "Primetime Live," and has hosted news magazine shows, helmed breaking news events, and interviewed presidents.