Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ABC Nightly News: Gibson to Retire; Sawyer to Replace

POLITICO reports Charles Gibson will retire in January and be replaced by Diane Sawyer. Sawyer (63) has been a major fixture on network news related programming since she started as a 60 Minutes correspondent in 1984 after serving as a co-anchor on CBS Morning News and as a political reporter with the network since 1978.

While ABC, like the other networks, has a distinctly liberal bias demonstrated most conspicuously for hosting prime time programming on the Obama Health Plan that critics insist was little more than a White House infomercial, ABC is the one network that has some distinctly independent voices such as investigative reporters, John Stossel and Brian Ross while Jake Tapper is one of the most persistent and hard-hitting correspondents in the White House press room clearly not one who parrots the party line asking hard-hitting questions with tough follow-ups.

How much editorial influence the evening news anchors clearly have these days is difficult for viewers to know. It’s not like the days of Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, and Chet Huntley who were in control of the true bottom line for their broadcasts. One gets the impression that Brian Williams of NBC can’t possibly be as idiotic as the content that passes through on his broadcast. Dan Rather had substantial control over his CBS broadcast, but it’s difficult to ascertain what rolls current CBS and ABC anchors have on their content.

Diane Sawyer has always come across as a true professional. She is by no means a party-line liberal. How much of her professional judgment will come into play remains to be seen, but in the declining business of nightly news, surely Diane Sawyer’s elevation to ABC’s prime anchor is welcomed. Now two of the three network nightly broadcasts will feature woman anchors. It seems like such a short time period since Barbara Walters co-anchored with Harry Reasoner in 1976 or the contentious paring of Connie Chung with Dan Rather from 1993-1995.

Ironically, Charlie Gibson, who retires, worked with Walters, Chung, and Sawyer.

Charlie Gibson has provided the most reliable of the three network’s coverage during the Obama coronation. His low key, sober approach comes across as credible and professional. Some accuse him of being heavy-handed in his interview with Sarah Palin, asking the infamous, “Bush Doctrine” question which was more a question of Palin’s awareness of media speak than foreign affairs, but on balance, given what the networks are today, Charlie Gibson has served responsibly.

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