Charles Gibson, who has served as anchor of "World News" since May of 2006, announced this morning that he will step down from the post at the end of this year and retire from full-time employment at ABC News.
"It has not been an easy decision to make," Gibson, 66, said in an e-mail to the "World News" staff. "This has been my professional home for almost 35 years. And I love this news department, and all who work in it, to the depths of my soul."
ABC News President David Westin said that he and Gibson have been talking about the decision for several weeks and that Gibson "has persuaded me that this is both what he wants and what is best for him."
"I respect his decision, just as I respect the enormous contribution he has made to ABC News through the years," Westin said.
Westin also announced Sawyer's move to "World News."
"Diane Sawyer is the right person to succeed Charlie and build on what he has accomplished," ABC News' Westin said in a statement. "She has an outstanding and varied career in television journalism, beginning with her role as a State Department correspondent and continuing at 60 Minutes, Primetime Live, and most recently Good Morning America."
Westin noted that Gibson came to lead "World News" "after a difficult and turbulent time" following the death of anchor Peter Jennings and then the injury of "World News" co-anchor Bob Woodruff by a roadside bomb that struck his vehicle near Taji, Iraq.
With Sawyer's new role, two of the three major network's evening news broadcasts will now be anchored by females, a first in television history.
"There is no one like Charlie Gibson and it is an enormous honor to be asked to join the terrific broadcast he and the great team of journalists have built at 'World News,'" Sawyer said today.
"Until then, I'll be getting up early and spending mornings, as always, counting myself so lucky to be with Robin, Chris and Sam and the incredibly smart, talented and dedicated team of 'Good Morning America.'"
Gibson, who previously co-hosted "Good Morning America" along with Sawyer, had originally planned to step down in 2007.
"But with Peter's illness, Bob's injuries, and Elizabeth [Vargas's] pregnancy, the job at 'World News' came open in May of 2006," Gibson said in the e-mail to the ABC staff. He was asked to step in as anchor. "It was an honor to do so."
Gibson said he would like to continue contributing occasionally to ABC News.
Before being named anchor of "World News," Gibson was co-anchor of "Good Morning America." He returned to "GMA" to re-launch the broadcast with Diane Sawyer on Jan. 18, 1999. He previously co-anchored the morning program from 1987 to 1998. In addition, he was also co-anchor of "Primetime Thursday," now known as "Primetime," from 1998 to 2004.
Sawyer has interviewed every president since President George H. W. Bush, including President Obama, and has handled an array of breaking news and special events, including Sept. 11 and, most recently, the 2008 presidential election.
During his 34 years at ABC News, Gibson has provided America with firsthand reports of some of the world's biggest events.