The XX Factor

Diane Sawyer’s Promotion Feels Like a Consolation Prize

Diane Sawyer is replacing the departing Charles Gibson on ABC’s World News Tonight . Now that two out of the three network nightly news anchors are female, the New York Times says, Sawyer’s new job will alter “the image of an avuncular male nightly news anchor.” But that image of paternal, all-knowing news anchor has been dead for some time. As the Times notes, “In the face of 24-hour news on cable and on the Web, the ratings for all three evening newscasts continue to erode.”

Somehow, Sawyer’s long wait for this prime position as anchor makes it seem more like a consolation prize. She gets to be anchor, but at a time when network news anchors are less and less powerful and relevant. Not only that, but the people the Times quotes from ABC News don’t even sound that excited about Sawyer’s ascendance. “Diane was the obvious choice” to replace Gibson, ABC News honcho David Westin said, but only after he said of Gibson’s departure, “This was not a result I wanted.”

I am a particular fan of Diane Sawyer, I’ve always found her to be a subtle and smart interviewer. I only wish her bosses were similarly excited about her new position, and that they didn’t make it sound like she is getting the job because it was the path of least resistance.

Photograph of Diane Sawyer by Brad Barket/Getty Images.