Through her distinguished documentary work, Sawyer has tackled challenging issues in primetime. In 2006, her report on the crisis in the foster care system was recognized with the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. In December 2011, after a year-long investigation, she aired another startling report on the overmedication of children in the foster care system. In January 2007, Sawyer delivered an eye-opening report on poverty in America, "Waiting on the World to Change," which gave viewers insight into the lives of families in Camden, New Jersey - the poorest city in America. She and her team of producers spent two years in the hills of Appalachia reporting the February 2009 special, "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains," which won a Peabody Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. In 2011, Sawyer continued her in-depth reporting on poverty in America focusing on the American Indian population with "A Hidden America: Children of the Plains."
In October 2012, Sawyer documented the violence plaguing Chicago - America's third-largest city - in "Hidden America: Don't Shoot I Want to Grow Up." In addition to extensive reporting from a war-torn community, she facilitated a solutions-based discussion between members of several rival gangs to see what, if anything, can be done to reverse the alarming pattern of violence and murder in the streets.
Under Sawyer's leadership "Hidden America" has expanded into an ongoing series of reports across ABC News to shine a light on the people, places and stories of struggle and hope that are not well known or apparent to many in America. The reports also spotlight the creative and innovative actions of some extraordinary Americans to help people in their communities.
Sawyer's other primetime documentaries include an investigation into the warehousing of Russian children in state-run orphanages, a diary of life inside a women's maximum security prison, where she spent two days and nights with inmates, an investigation into the neglect and abuse at state-run institutions for the mentally handicapped, and a landmark investigation into pharmacy prescription errors.
In October 2006, Sawyer traveled to North Korea and brought viewers an unprecedented look inside that secretive country. The first American journalist to ever report live from North Korea, she also anchored "North Korea: Inside the Shadows," an hour-long primetime special that included interviews with key government and military officials and new information on what life is like for North Koreans. In February of 2007, she traveled to Syria and Iran, where she conducted exclusive interviews with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In April 2008, she anchored "Good Morning America" from Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
Sawyer also reported from Southeast Asia in the wake of the deadly 2005 tsunami, from Moscow, where she made her way into the office of Boris Yeltsin at the pinnacle of the Soviet coup, from Egypt during the Gulf War, where she interviewed President Hosni Mubarak, and Amman, Jordan, where she interviewed King Hussein and Queen Noor. During the Iraq War, she conducted an exclusive interview with one of the main architects of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program, Dr. Rihab Taha, nicknamed "Dr. Germ."