Diane Sawyer: The last news anchor?

Sawyer signed off her evening gig last night -- but the heat in TV news is in the morning now

Topics: diane sawyer, world news, ABC, good morning america, david muir,

Diane Sawyer: The last news anchor?Diane Sawyer, left, and George Stephanopoulos during election night coverage. (Credit: AP/ABC, Donna Svennevik)

Diane Sawyer’s last night on the air as anchor of ABC’s “World News” came last night — in the middle of the week in late summer. It was an appropriate time for a news icon to pass the torch, as few were paying attention; Sawyer may be the last evening news anchor who mattered.

Consider that Sawyer’s replacement in the anchor spot will be David Muir, but that Muir will not be the network’s go-to person when news breaks or during major events like elections. That’d be George Stephanopoulos, who’s now the network’s “chief anchor” — an unusual split, and one that points, as though we needed any more evidence, to the decreased primacy of the evening newscast.

Sawyer was a bigger star than the typical network news anchor — for better or worse, as recent scurrilous bits of news from a book about her and other female TV icons indicated — and will continue to be one without the job. A report in the New York Daily News sourced by anonymous Sawyer intimates indicated Sawyer’s desire to do the sort of reporting that cannot be done from behind a Manhattan desk. As a news anchor, Sawyer shored up the “World News” ratings — but it’s the sort of job that really can be done even by someone the network doesn’t entrust to lead their network’s coverage.

Once the sort of prize that was a victory lap in the later stages of a long career or an albatross that could upset the careers of people who sought it (Katie Couric, at the height of her fame and power, gave it a go at CBS and has never really recovered), the evening news gig is now something that Sawyer is slipping away from, and something that, at ABC, at least, hardly seems like such a prize.

NBC’s Brian Williams, at least, still gets attention, but as a recent New York Times interview with him and Seth Meyers recently proved, it’s really more about his love of comedy than about anything happening between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Scott Pelley is also on television nightly!



The replacement of Sawyer with Muir would seem to have a lot to do with the fact that the network cannot actually clone Stephanopoulos (the former Clinton White House personage already hosts “Good Morning America” and “This Week” for the network). In his stead, they’ve appointed a proven hard worker and good reporter who will keep the seat warm and who won’t overshadow Stephanopoulos. It’s an acknowledgment of sorts that the nightly news spot is now the least important arrow in the network’s quiver — if it mattered that much, they’d pull Stephanopoulos off morning news or the Sunday public-affairs show.

There’s nothing, per se, wrong with the nightly news — and its loyalists will defend the evening broadcast, as they did when Sawyer was perceived to have unduly “softened” her broadcast with more lifestyle and health segments. While its utter lack of splashiness, even in comparison to other network news products, doesn’t necessarily condemn it to death, it does add up to a sense that the person delivering the news is growing less and less iconic. Sawyer’s particular skills were, to judge by the ratings, put to use well on “World News,” but the fact that the more obvious network-news-star grooming is now happening in the morning may mean more David Muirs — perfectly competent, great-looking news anchors whose responsibilities end not far beyond reading the day’s headlines.

Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...