ABC News has named Charles Gibson to be sole anchor of "World News Tonight."
"Charlie Gibson is one of the most distinguished journalists on television. He is a superb broadcaster, the consummate professional, and a very familiar presence to the audience and everyone at 'World News Tonight,'" said ABC News President David Westin, who announced the decision today.
Gibson's new assignment will take effect on May 29. He will continue as a co-anchor of "Good Morning America" until June 30.
"I am humbled to accept this new assignment. I have witnessed firsthand the grace and determination of every member of the staff of 'World News Tonight.' I look forward to joining this extraordinary team and to helping the broadcast start a new chapter," Gibson said.
The announcement comes after a week of strong ratings for "World News Tonight." The broadcast averaged 7.71 million viewers, outperforming CBS' "Evening News" by 510,000 total viewers and 470,000 adults in the key 25-to-54 demographic last week.
Following the death of "World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings in August 2005, Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff were named co-anchors of the broadcast in December 2005.
Vargas said today she had chosen to step down to take maternity leave and later return to co-anchor "20/20" and ABC News specials.
"Going forward Elizabeth Vargas has asked that we limit her responsibilities to anchoring '20/20' and special primetime hours," Westin said. "From the moment Peter became ill, no person in this organization has stepped up more than Elizabeth. I have nothing but respect, gratitude and admiration for the work she has done on our behalf oftentimes under enormously stressful conditions. Elizabeth is absolutely vital to the success and future of ABC News."
Vargas said she had made the decision after consulting with her doctors.
"David and I have been talking for some time about what would happen as my maternity leave approaches," Vargas said. "My doctors have asked that I cut back my schedule considerably. What works best for me and my family is to return in the fall to '20/20' as I raise my new baby and young son."
"I have loved every day I spent at 'World News Tonight' and have endless respect for my colleagues there," Vargas said. "This broadcast needs someone who can give 150 percent -- day in and day out. I am not in a position to give that right now, and it wouldn't be fair to do any less. In Charlie, this broadcast and news division has a wonderful and respected leader."
Westin added, "Charlie's taking over 'World News Tonight' will give Bob Woodruff the extended period that he needs to recover and return to the air for ABC News. All of us look forward to that day, but it will be on Bob's timetable, not ours."
Woodruff is recovering from injuries sustained in January while reporting from Iraq.
Woodruff said, "Elizabeth and I set out on a great adventure this year, and I'm proud of what we accomplished. Elizabeth had to shoulder an enormous job when I was injured, and she did it with grace. Charlie Gibson is a mentor and a friend. I look forward to contributing to his broadcast as soon as I'm able."
Diane Sawyer, Gibson's co-anchor on "Good Morning America," said, "I know Elizabeth will bring great reporting to primetime as she always has, and Charlie will be wonderful on 'World News Tonight.' I will be watching him every night."
At an emotional staff meeting today after "Good Morning America," Sawyer and the show's staff greeted Gibson with a standing ovation. The staff also read a letter of congratulations from fellow "GMA" co-anchor Robin Roberts, who was away on assignment.
Gibson later joined Vargas for a meeting with the "World News Tonight" staff. Gibson said after 19 years with "Good Morning America" that he would greatly miss the morning show but was equally thrilled to join the evening broadcast, which he said he watches daily.
He praised Vargas for her work with the program after she spoke about her experience and received a lengthy round of applause from the staff.
For the month of June, Gibson will work double duty at both "Good Morning America" and "World News Tonight."
He will co-anchor "Good Morning America" with Sawyer and Roberts Monday to Wednesday each week, and anchor "World News Tonight" Monday to Thursday. Beginning in July, he will anchor "World News Tonight" exclusively.
Gibson returned to "Good Morning America" to relaunch the broadcast with Sawyer on Jan. 18, 1999. He previously co-anchored the morning program from 1987 to 1998. In addition, Gibson was also co-anchor of "Primetime Thursday," now known as "Primetime," and was a regular substitute anchor on "World News Tonight."
On the political beat, Gibson has interviewed each of the last seven American presidents and has anchored many broadcasts from Republican and Democratic national conventions as well as presidential inaugurations.
In February 2003, Gibson anchored "Good Morning America" from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to report on the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. Anchoring "Good Morning America" on Sept. 11, 2001, Gibson, along with Sawyer, began the network's award-winning coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Gibson has also interviewed leaders from around the globe, including Kofi Annan, Tony Blair, the late Yasir Arafat, and Nelson Mandela.
Gibson is a graduate of Princeton University, where he was news director for the university's radio station, WPRB-FM.
A native of Evanston, Ill., Gibson grew up in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Arlene, live in New York. They have two daughters.