By Calvin Palmer
Charles Gibson has announced that he is stepping down as anchor on ABC’s World News and retiring from full-time employment with ABC News at the end of the year.
His former Good Morning America colleague, Diane Sawyer, will take over his duties on World News in January.
ABC News President David Westin said, “I respect his decision, just as I respect the enormous contribution he has made to ABC News through the years.”
Announcing Sawyer’s move, Westin said, “Diane Sawyer is the right person to succeed Charlie and build on what he has accomplished.
“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.”
Sawyer’s new role means that 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.
When I first moved to the United States, Good Morning America was my early morning news program of choice. Gibson and Sawyer had a chemistry between them that made for good television. They were serious when they needed to be and light-hearted when the occasion called for it.
The style of their presentation, their comments and banter between items put me in mind of John Timpson and Brian Redhead on BBC Radio’s Today program in years gone by.
But when Gibson left to anchor World News, Good Morning America lost most of its appeal. Gibson’s replacement Robin Roberts was too preppy for my taste, too eager to please, and alongside Sawyer the banter simply descended into female froth. The gravitas and substance that Gibson lent to the proceedings were gone. And I soon went with them.
What TV executives seem to forget that is 50 percent of the population is male and in their eagerness to promote women’s equality that fact is often overlooked. With two women presenters together, and given the format of Good Morning America, a serious news program suddenly descended into coffee shop chit-chat.
In the absence of Gibson, I studied Sawyer more closely and began to loathe her mannerisms. Gibson told a news story by simply telling us the facts in his easy-going manner. Sawyer, on the other hand, began to over dramatize her presentation with the inflection of her voice, facial expressions of concern or empathy. She was no longer presenting news stories but rather giving a stilted dramatic performance. Maybe she thinks the Barbara Walters affected style of presentation is the industry norm. Perhaps it is, but not for me.
Walters and Sawyer both give the impression that they are more important than the news stories and events they are covering. Perhaps, as women, they feel they have to try harder and stamp their personality on stories rather than simply presenting the facts and arguments.
The false emotions they evoke as they deliver their narrations are not what good TV journalism is all about. Gibson and the late Peter Jennings knew that but Walters and Sawyer fail to grasp that concept.
I eventually switched my allegiance to NBC’s Today Show and it was like a breath of fresh air. The male/female combination of Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira was much more to my taste and similar to how Good Morning America used to be.
Vieira’s presentation is an object lesson for all female TV presenters. She remains her pleasant self and allows the drama to unfold from the news story. Fake sentiment and insincere sincerity — the hallmarks of Walters, Sawyer and Roberts — are absent.
I do not know who Vieira’s mentor was earlier in her career but she obviously listened and learned, and in doing so has become the consummate TV news professional.
I wish Charles Gibson a long and happy retirement. His departure from ABC will leave the news organization a poorer place and I fear it will soon be reflected in the viewing figures.
[Based on a report by ABC News.]