ABC’s Diane Sawyer is stepping down from anchoring World News and will focus on primetime specials, big interviews, and enterprise reporting for the network. David Muir, who has been sole anchor of the World News weekend editions since 2011, will take over as anchor and managing editor of the flagship broadcast on Sept. 2.
In his new role, Muir will no longer anchor World News on Saturdays and Sundays but will remain co-anchor of 20/20 with Elizabeth Vargas. In addition to the new roles for Sawyer and Muir, George Stephanopoulos, anchor of Good Morning America and This Week, has been promoted to chief anchor of ABC News. Sawyer has been anchor since 2009. She came in following the retirement of Charles Gibson who, in 2006, succeeded the anchor team of Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas.
Late last year there were reports that Sawyer did not want Stephanopoulos to replace her as World News anchor, even though he was believed to have a clause in his contract assuring him the role should she step down. Stephanopoulos signed a new deal with ABC News earlier this year. Muir has long been rumored to be the favorite inside ABC to follow Sawyer.
World News won the May sweep in adults 25-54, the evening broadcast’s first sweeps victory in more than six years. Season to date, World News is up versus the same point last year in both total viewers and adults 25-54, delivering its most-watched season in five years and best news demo number in three years.
In 1984, she became the first female correspondent on “60 Minutes,” a CBS News investigative-television newsmagazine. During Sawyer’s five years with “60 Minutes,” the program regularly ranked among the top-five most-watched in the country.
In 1989, she moved to ABC News to co-anchor “Primetime Live” newsmagazine with Sam Donaldson. From 1998 to 2000, she co-anchored ABC’s “20/20,” also a newsmagazine, broadcast on Wednesdays with Donaldson and on Sundays with Barbara Walters.
In 1999, Sawyer returned to morning news as the co-anchor of “Good Morning America” with Charles Gibson. The assignment was putatively temporary, but her success in the position, measured by a close in the gap with front-runner “Today,” NBC News’s morning program, sustained her in the position far longer than anticipated.
In 2000, Sawyer returned as co-anchor of “Primetime” newsmagazine now called “Primetime Thursday,” with Gibson replacing Donaldson. In 2004, when the show’s title was changed to its original name, “Primetime Live,” a new executive producer was hired, and the newsmagazine format was changed to investigative reporting with Sawyer rotating as the co-anchor with Chris Cuomo, Cynthia McFadden, and John Quiñones. In 2005, the show was retitled “Primetime,” and Sawyer left the show at the end of 2006 when its format again changed, with a sub-series focus.
On September 2, 2009, Sawyer was announced as the successor to Gibson, who retired as the anchor of “ABC World News,” on Friday, December 18, 2009. Sawyer left “GMA” on December 11, 2009, and was scheduled to become the “ABC World News” anchor in January 2010. However, on December 1, 2009, The New York Times reported that, instead of moving to “ABC World News” in January 2010, Sawyer would start on December 21, 2009, three days after Gibson’s departure. For over a year (2010–2011), with Katie Couric as then anchor of “CBS News,” two of the three network news anchors on broadcast television were women. Ratings initially rose 8% after Sawyer’s first four weeks, averaging 8.8 million viewers.
She signed off at the end of her nightly broadcast with “I’ll see you right back here tomorrow night.” The show, like the competing evening newscasts, ended the year with ratings 14% below that of the preceding year. Currently, in 2014, she is the anchor of ABC’s flagship broadcast “World News” and the network’s principal anchor for breaking-news coverage, election coverage, and special events.