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Another Brick in the Anchor Wall



ABC finally confirmed this morning what gossips have been whispering for weeks: Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff are the official replacements for anchor Peter Jennings on the network's evening news show, World News Tonight.

The move places two younger journalists in the evening news anchor spot, passing over Good Morning America co-host Charlie Gibson, who was looking less like the face of the evening news in the 21st Century, anyway. It also replaces dashing anchor Jennings, lauded as the James Bond of TV news until his Aug. 7 death from lung cancer, with two lesser known names.

This move also makes Vargas, who is of Puerto Rican and Irish heritage, the first Latina to hold an evening news anchor job -- comfortably reflective of the network's aggressive efforts to increase its Hispanic diversity.

Continunig the infatuation with live broadcasts that stated with the revamped Nightline, ABC will present Vargas and Woodruff live for Central and Pacific time broadcasts of World News Tonight -- presumably allowing each broadcast to be up-to-the-minute and a little different. The two will also contribute reports to (can a blog be far behind?), including a preview of each night's evening newscast. (will they have any time for, like, actual reporting?)

Given NBC's success with Brian Williams, who has widened the lead in the evening news race, it seemed inevitable ABC brass would want younger, more mobile journalists helming its evening news show. But it also replaces another brand-name anchor with two lesser-known faces, just a week after Nightline replaced outgoing star Ted Koppel with three barely-known anchors.

All eyes are now turning to CBS, where Today show anchor Katie Couric has become their Holy Grail. The questions left: does her kind of high-priced anchor star power matter anymore in a fragmented, global news marketplace?

And does she remember what happened when her Today show colleague Bryant Gumbel ditched NBC to try "saving" CBS' morning news woes by anchoring the first incarnation of its Early Show? (Here's a hint: Gumbel's now semi-retired and working mostly for HBO.)

So far, with the ascent of Woodruff, Vargas, Williams and CNN's Anderson Cooper, the face of TV news in the 21st Century is younger, looser, more tech savvy, more mobile and cheaper than their predecessors.

In the ruthless environment of network TV, you have to ask: Besides the informality, does any of that describe the hugely-paid Couric?

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:35pm]


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