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Diane Sawyer finally gets the big chair, replacing Charlie Gibson on ABC's World News Tonight

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September

When longtime World News anchor Peter Jennings passed awayDiane-sawyer in 2005, some always wondered why the big chair didn't go to Diane Sawyer.

Arguably, she was the biggest star at ABC News, certainly one of the best-paid. And with hard news credentials ranging from 60 Minutes to 20/20, plenty of experience.

Now we'll all get to see how she does in the big job, following Charlie Gibson's announcement this morning that Sawyer will replace him as World News anchor in January, following his retirement.

In an instant, this news turns over the traditional model, replacing the most traditional network news anchor -- old, male, white -- with the second woman ever to hold the job solo.

Charliegibson1220 I'm betting Sawyer won't have nearly the problems CBS rival Katie Couric had in her transition -- in part, because Sawyer had hard news credentials before joining the soft news parade on Good Morning America, and partially because Couric has absorbed those shots already.

The news also caps Gibson's tremendous career at ABC News -- a 35-year tenure marked largely by his ability to do what he wanted, how he wanted.

When he first left GMA in 1998, making room for a new anchor team, he was back on the show the next year. When ABC passed him over to hire Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas to replace Jennings in 2006, Gibson was anchoring World News by May, following Woodruff's serious injury in Iraq and Vargas' second pregnancy. Read his thoughts then by clicking here.

A few questions:

-- Will all the traditional viewers who made Gibson's broadcast such a contender with NBC's Brian Williams stick around for Sawyer (the week of Aug. 24, Williams drew 6 million, Gibson drew 5.4 million and Couric drew 4.2 million)?

-- If Sawyer stays in second place, will that blow up the contention some at CBS made in explaining Couric's ratings troubles by implying networks news viewers had trouble with her gender?

-- Do we know the full story why Gibson is retiring at age 66 -- seven years younger than Dan Rather when he was forced to step down at CBS? (Gibson is, however, the same age as Jennings when he left World News due to the lung cancer which eventually took his life.)

Click below to read Gibson's e-mail to ABC staffers, and ABC News president David Westin's statement about Sawyer's succession.

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ABC News' Charles Gibson, anchor of 'World News', sent the following email to staff announcing his intention to step down from the broadcast at the end of the year. ABC News president David Westin announced "Good Morning America" co-anchor Diane Sawyer will anchor 'World News' starting in January 2010.

Charles-gibson I have always been taught you should never bury the lead _ so I write to tell you that I have told David Westin I want to step down as anchor of World News, and retire from full time employment at ABC News.

It has not been an easy decision to make. This has been my professional home for almost 35 years. And I love this news department, and all who work in it, to the depths of my soul.

I have received much comment, and quite a few emails and letters referring to the signoff Eddie Pinder convinced me to use - wishing that everyone has had a good day. But the proudest part for me has been saying "...for all of us at ABC News...", since those words signify in my mind that I have been in a position to speak for an entire news department that I consider second to none.

It had been my intention to step down from my job at Good Morning America in 2007 but with Peter's illness, Bob's injuries, and Elizabeth's pregnancy, the job at World News came open in May of 2006, and David asked me to step in as anchor. It was an honor to do so. 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.

I have told David I would like to continue in some capacity contributing occasionally to ABC News. He has been receptive to the idea _ and we will be discussing what that role might be.

Most importantly, my heart is full of gratitude for those with whom I have had the privilege to work as a correspondent, as a host at Good Morning America, at Special Events, and now as anchor at World News.

I'll be anchoring World News through December and will have a chance to thank many of you personally. In the meantime let's get back to the news.

Diane Sawyer to Anchor 'World News'

Diane-sawyer2 ABC News President David Westin sent the following email to ABC News staff announcing Charles Gibson's retirement from ABC News and the broadcast he anchors. Westin also formally names "Good Morning America" co-anchor Diane Sawyer as the new anchor 'World News' starting in January 2010.

Today, Charlie Gibson announced to his colleagues at World News that he has decided to step down as anchor effective at the end of this year. I attach below Charlie's full email.

I have asked Diane Sawyer to serve as the next anchor of World News, and she will assume that position in January.

Charlie and I have been talking about his decision for several weeks, and he has persuaded me that this is both what he wants and what is best for him. I respect his decision, just as I respect the enormous contribution he has made to ABC News through the years.

Most recently, he stepped in to lead World News after a difficult and turbulent time _ both for the broadcast and for ABC News over all. We suffered from the loss of Peter and then the severe injuries to Bob. Charlie came to the fore to keep us on the path of doing the first rate journalism that had distinguished World News for many years. We owe him much for the leadership he gave us when we needed it most.

Since then, Charlie has covered all the major events with the substance and grace that we all expect from him. Most importantly, he headed our coverage during a presidential election unlike any other. Now, having accomplished so much in so many different parts of ABC News, Charlie has decided it is time for him to step down. I have told him that he has an open door to continue to work with ABC News, but he's asked for a bit of time before he comes back to us.

Diane Sawyer is the right person to succeed Charlie and build on what he has accomplished. She has an outstanding and varied career in television journalism, beginning with her role as a State Department correspondent and continuing at 60 Minutes, Primetime Live, and Good Morning America.

She has interviewed every President since President George H. W. Bush up to and including President Obama. She has handled an array of breaking news special events, including on 9/11 and, most recently, the presidential election. She has done distinguished documentaries on topics as varied as North Korea, the plight of women in Afghanistan and in prisons here at home, and poverty in Camden, New Jersey, and in Appalachia.

We are fortunate to have a journalist of Diane's proven ability and passion to step into the important position of anchor for World News. She will continue with her documentaries in her new role.

Diane's presence will certainly be missed on Good Morning America. But we are fortunate that both Charlie and Diane will remain with their current broadcasts for the next four months; we will be making further announcements well before any changes are made.
 

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:01pm]

    

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