Diane Sawyer to Replace Charles Gibson As 'World News' Anchor

ABC News' Charles Gibson to retire in January.

September 2, 2009, 10:54 AM

Sept. 2, 2009 — -- 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.

"Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer, 63, will serve as the next "World News" anchor, beginning in January.

"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.'"

Charles Gibson Steps Down from 'World News'

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.

In June 2001, at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, he anchored ABC's live coverage of the Timothy McVeigh execution. He had reported from the scene when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed in April 1995, and continued to follow the story on multiple return visits to Oklahoma City.

On Sept. 11 of that year, he and Sawyer were anchoring "Good Morning America" and began the network's award-winning coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Gibson anchored "GMA" from the Johnson Space Center in Houston following the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia in February 2003. He also won an Emmy for his hourlong "Primetime Thursday" investigation entitled "Columbia Final Mission."

In 2005, Gibson traveled to Vatican City to report on the death of Pope John Paul II, anchoring the network's coverage of the Pope's funeral and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. ABC's coverage was later recognized with an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.

More recently,Gibson has reported extensively on the economic crisis, traveling throughout the U.S. to see firsthand how the recession is impacting different corners of the country.

Gibson has interviewed each of the last eight American presidents, and has also anchored many broadcasts from Republican and Democratic national conventions, as well as presidential inaugurations. In 2004 he was chosen to moderate the 90-minute town hall style debate between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry that was watched by 47 million people around the country.

Additionally, he has interviewed leaders from around the globe, including Kofi Annan, Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela and the late Yasir Arafat. He reported from Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in October 2000 to cover the Middle East peace summit, and traveled to Israel in April 2002 to cover the crisis of suicide bombings. In 1995, just hours after the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Gibson conducted a live interview with widow Leah Rabin in her home in Tel Aviv. In April 1999, he reported from Macedonia's tent cities for refugees from Kosovo.

Diane Sawyer to Become 'World News' Anchor

Sawyer joined ABC News in February 1989, as co-anchor of "Primetime." In addition to that assignment, she was named co-anchor of "Good Morning America" in January 1999. She currently co-anchors the morning news program with Robin Roberts, where the duo made network television history as the first female co-anchor team. In August 2009 "GMA" was recognized with its third consecutive Emmy Award for outstanding morning program.

Sawyer was the first journalist to speak with then Sen. Barack Obama after his Iowa Caucus win. Sawyer also reported "Portrait of a President," two hourlong specials that offered new insight into candidates Obama and McCain and their families.

In 2006, Sawyer's report on the crises in the foster care system was recognized with the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. In January 2007, she delivered a moving and eye-opening report on poverty in America. "Waiting on the World to Change" gave viewers insight into the lives of families in Camden, N.J., the poorest city in America. Sawyer and her team of producers also spent two years in the hills of Appalachia reporting the February 2009 special, "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains."

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, Sawyer also anchored "North Korea: Inside The Shadows," an hourlong primetime special that included interviews with key government and military officials and new information on what life is like for North Koreans.

In February 2007, Sawyer traveled to Syria and Iran, where she conducted exclusive interviews with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In April 2008, Sawyer anchored "GMA" from Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Prior to joining ABC News, Sawyer spent nine years at CBS News. There she made history as the first female correspondent for "60 Minutes." She also co-anchored the "CBS Morning News" and was CBS News' State Department correspondent. While at CBS, Sawyer covered the 1980,1984 and 1988 national political conventions as a floor and then podium correspondent.

Sawyer was part of the Nixon-Ford transition team from 1974 to 1975 and assisted former President Nixon in the writing of his memoirs in 1974 and 1975. She began her career in broadcasting in 1967 in Louisville, Ky., where she was a reporter for WLKY-TV until 1970.

A native of Glasgow, Ky., and raised in Louisville, Sawyer received a B.A. from Wellesley College and completed a semester of law school before embarking on a career in broadcasting.

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