Why it makes sense for Diane Sawyer to be an evening news anchor
I always find it interesting when media critics wind up echoing the same ideas and values they criticize in the people they cover (yes, I know I've done it too -- consider this a confession from a sinner).
I felt this way most recently in seeing a spate of snarky stories about Diane Sawyer moving to ABC's flagship news broadcast, World News. Why would she want to go to the evening news? these pieces asked. Doesn't she know morning news is where the money and the action is?
TV critics have been saying the evening newscast is dying for many years, despite the fact that the top talent at every network fights hard to get those rare network news anchor jobs. When Katie Couric was the biggest star at NBC News, she switched networks to get the CBS gig; now that Sawyer is the biggest news star at ABC, she staking her claim on the big job as well.
Jack Shafer, the talented Slate media critic whose crumpled-up column rejects are probably better than most of my stories, at least criticizes Sawyer's move on journalistic grounds, too. His point: that a mostly old, dying audience watches the evening news and little real journalism is practiced there.
But that analysis makes me wonder if he's ever watched Good Morning America, or any of the network morning shows recently. Because, whatever you think of the newsreading going on during the evening newscast, there is even less journalism going on in the mornings.
Who did the two sharp interviews with Sarah Palin that pierced her 'just folks' image and indicated she might not be ready for the vice president's job? ABC anchor Charlie Gibson and Couric. Who stood in New Orleans as the floodwaters from Katrina took out the city, moving to the Superdome to provide steady reports on the horrifically ineffectual government response? NBC anchor Brian Williams.
Who sang backup for Whitney Houston when she visited Good Morning America? Sawyer did.
I say, let's applaud Sawyer for leaving a broadcast which often wastes her considerable journalistic talent to take on the considerable challenge of being the face of a major TV news organization. She's going to moderate presidential debates, cover the world's biggest disasters, help TV audiences through whatever new tragedy comes our way and lead one of television's biggest and well-known news organizations.
Yeah, who would want a job like that?