ABC News Anchor Shuffle: Who, What, When, Where, And Why

TV news industry navel lint gazing broke out today as ABC News announced that Diane Sawyer was stepping down as anchor of its evening newscast. Some highlights:

1)   Diane Sawyer likes to go out on top. ABC World News won the May sweep in the news demo – the newscast’s first sweep demo win in more than six LisaDeMoraesColumnyears. Last time ABC’s newscast won a sweep was February of ’08, with Sawyer’s predecessor, Charles Gibson. Sawyer took over the show in December of ’09. “Look at Diane’s career – she always likes to go out on top,” said one industry observer. “She won the May book, why not go out on top – that’s very typical of her,” said another.

2)  ABC News is trying to split the baby. Giving to David Muir the World News chair, while naming Chief Anchor title and giving him Sawyer’s chair during breaking news events and specials (presidential election coverage, etc.) had navel lint gazers trying to figure out “who won.” Some say Stephanopoulos got “passed over,” but others dismiss that as old school,  noting Stephanopoulos co-anchors the news division’s morning show, which is more important these days. (Matt Lauer, the reigning king of morning infotainment TV recently re-signed at NBC’s Today for more than $20 million a year, which eclipses the reported $12 mil a year Sawyer has been making). George Stephanopoulos to the new ABC News logoMuir fans speculate Stephanopoulos’ new Chief Anchor thing is window dressing, and the anchor chair will be filled by whichever man is best positioned at that moment when there is major breaking news, etc.

3)  Stephanopoulos wasn’t going to get the evening news gig. The story at ABC News…is GMA surpassing Today for the first time in 16 years,” one industry pundit noted. “Everything they have argued — to the press, to viewers, to people they want to go work [at ABC News], to guest bookings — is about how that show is now No. 1. Anything you say about this has to be looked at through the prism of GMA – it’s by far the most important thing they have going. Virtually nothing else is as important.”

4) So much for ABC News being the showcase for the most accomplished women in TV news. Not so long ago, ABC boasted its news division was home to the most accomplished women in TV news. With Sawyer and Barbara Walters stepping down and stepped, respectively, from their regular gigs, and Katie Couric a thing of the past, today’s hair-tearing was over the return of Three White Guys configuration at the broadcast evening news programs.

Image (3) gma2__130822170347-275x154__130906212529-150x150.jpg for post 6894295) Muir’s newscast will be more GMA-ish. While Muir is not nearly as well-known a commodity with the public as is Sawyer, or Stephanopoulos, he’s well respected and described by some as more malleable. “World News with David will be a little more like GMA than World News with Diane Sawyer … there’s going to be more of an editorial mix,” speculated one source; others agreed. And, everyone was in lock-step with the notion Muir will young-up ABC’s newscast, because he’s 40, and Sawyer is in her late 60s —  and NBC’s Brian Williams and CBS’ Scott Pelley are in their late 50s.

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