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Diane Sawyer — Immediate Effect


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Diane Sawyer has immediate effect on ABC's 'World News'

The evening newscast's ratings have spiked 8% since she took over as anchor four weeks ago.

By Matea Gold

January 25, 2010

Reporting from New York

When she took over anchoring ABC's evening newscast last month after 11 years of rising before dawn to host "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer thought she would finally get to catch up on her sleep. Charles Gibson, Sawyer's predecessor on "World News" and her former co-host on "GMA," had promised her, "Oh, you won't believe the difference," she recalled.

So much for that.

Sawyer kicked off her tenure by traveling to Copenhagen to confront Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about his nuclear ambitions.

A few weeks later, she was in Afghanistan, where she shadowed U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and questioned President Hamid Karzai about corruption in his administration. As she prepared to leave Kabul, Sawyer got word about the deadly earthquake in Haiti and rushed to Port-au-Prince to cover the aftermath, a journey of 20 hours.

Today, she's in Washington to interview President Obama for an exclusive sitdown before the State of the Union.

"I want to write Charlie and say, 'You tricked me!' " Sawyer said with a laugh, back in her New York office Friday during a rare lull in the news.

But she's not complaining. After more than two decades at ABC, the 64-year-old anchor has finally secured the post that colleagues say it was clear she had long sought.

"I do think that I'm probably addicted, if anything, to stretching, and I love the idea of something that is challenging in a new way," she said. "That I love. It wasn't about a position for me.

"It is a thrilling vantage point," she said happily in her snug second-floor office. Dressed in an oversized zip-up cardigan over a fleece vest and black stretch pants, her eyes framed by magenta-colored glasses, she looked more like a college student than a network anchor. "It's a chance to think, plan and have a conversation that ripens all day long into what you collectively believe you are as a broadcast."

In her short time, Sawyer has already introduced some subtle changes -- most notably, adding more on-set conversations with correspondents about their stories.

And she's urged the staff to devote more resources to long-range pieces, though she refused to divulge topics. "I don't want anyone to do them until we do!" she said with a grin.

ABC took a purposefully low-key approach to Sawyer's arrival, putting her on the air right before Christmas without a significant marketing push. So newsroom executives are especially pleased that the audience already appears to be responding.

In her first four weeks as anchor, "World News" averaged 8.8 million viewers, a spike of 8% over its season-to-date average, though it still trails the top-rated "NBC Nightly News."

"Her curiosity, her energy, I think have really given a lift to the program," said executive producer Jon Banner.

Sawyer was known for her hands-on involvement at "GMA," taking an interest in details like video selection, and she's brought that approach to "World News."

"She knows, 'Let's put this picture here, let's do this story here,' " Banner said. "She's a huge contributor to the entire experience of the half hour, which is just great from my point of view."

When the quake hit Haiti, Sawyer and her team in Kabul scrambled to find the quickest way to Port-au-Prince. After traveling all day and night, they arrived in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and boarded a plane, only to be turned back from the Port-au-Prince airport. On the ground, they finagled a few spots on a private helicopter that finally got Sawyer into the country.

"It was the central story and I wanted to know when I came on the air at night what it felt like, how it was to breathe that air," Sawyer explained, calling the destruction there "inexpressible."

The anchor, who did two broadcasts of "World News" from Haiti and a one-hour prime-time special, slept in a chair at the airport amid jet fumes and the roar of planes.

Sawyer professes to have "negative vanity," calling it "bliss" not to have to get her hair and makeup done first thing in the morning now.

In a new daily feature dubbed “The Conversation” on ABCNews.com, a decidedly unglamorous Sawyer, wearing casual clothes and glasses, chats by webcam with correspondents about the news of the day. The segments show viewers a personal side of the anchor, who admitted to correspondent Jake Tapper in one that her eyes are so bad that she can't read the big E on eye charts, a condition she blames on reading "Gone With the Wind" by the dim light cast by an electric blanket.

Sawyer seems prepared to embrace more new media than Gibson, who posted little material online. Aside from doing "The Conversation," she said she will likely blog and tweet.

But she's still bullish on the power of her newscast, despite the fact that the network news programs have shed millions of viewers since she got her start in broadcasting in 1967 as a local television reporter in Louisville, Ky.

"We can still bring facts to the world that, like Archimedes' fulcrum, can move the whole political debate," Sawyer said. "The expectation that you're not there to entertain, you're there to inform and enrich, I think give these broadcasts enormous heft still."

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Diane Sawyer has immediate effect on ABC's 'World News'

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+1

I think people gravitate towards Sawyer because she asks the questions everyone in America wants to ask. We saw this for years in her celebrity interviews(Whitney Houston probably being the one that is most noted).

The Obama interview was A+ excellence. She asked tough questions without coming off as extremely biased and even when she asks softball questions, she's still unrelenting.

The Ahmadinejad interview was classic Sawyer as well.

Aside from Sarah Palin(because I felt like they were both on the same level), Katie tries to pull off interviews like this, but she comes off as a bratty school newspaper reporter. And Brian Williams is safe snoozeville. Diane Sawyer pushes boundaries, but she remains tasteful when doing so.

I hope they keep her in that seat for at least ten years.

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When I was in North America for Christmas I became addicted to World News with Diane Sawyer. She is fabulous. The best anchor to hit network news in decades. I hope she does this job for as long as she chooses. She looks fantastic and seems to have the energy to match!

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Just so Sylph can have some balance(I know how much he loves to burst a bubble)...

http://tvbythenumbers.com/2010/01/25/la-times-gives-a-pr-smooch-to-diane-sawyer-but-her-relative-ratings-are-not-improved/40021

The LA Times gives Diane Sawyer’s World News a big puffy PR smooch up in an article with the sub-head of “The evening newscast’s ratings have spiked 8% since she took over as anchor four weeks ago.”

In her first four weeks as anchor, “World News” averaged 8.8 million viewers, a spike of 8% over its season-to-date average, though it still trails the top-rated “NBC Nightly News.”

via latimes.com.

Looks like ABC PR has spun its magic spell, because while World News 4 week viewership vs. its season average increased by 8% (7.6% to a second digit), NBC’s increased by 9% (8.7%), and even laggard Katie Couric’s CBS newscast increased by 7% (7.3%).

And it’s also nonsense to attribute those recent increases to Sawyer (or Couric, or Williams), they’re primarily Haiti earthquake induced.

Of course, along with all the PR puffery in the piece, it might make a bit less impact if the sub-head had been “Her ratings are about the same compared to NBC and CBS as the last guy”.

Pucker up!

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I like watching many news programmes. It gives me perspective and I just plainly like to follow all.

Generally, I prefer interviews, and I do think Sawyer is great, but do not like reporting/reports. How much can you squeeze in several minutes? It's the... Superficiality I guess which bothers me. Clearly, it's the limit of the medium, that I understand, but I always like to investigate something thoroughly.

And I'm glad that they all went up, let's see what happens until the next disaster/scandal.

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I like watching many news programmes. It gives me perspective and I just plainly like to follow all.

Generally, I prefer interviews, and I do think Sawyer is great, but do not like reporting/reports. How much can you squeeze in several minutes? It's the... Superficiality I guess which bothers me. Clearly, it's the limit of the medium, that I understand, but I always like to investigate something thoroughly.

And I'm glad that they all went up, let's see what happens until the next disaster/scandal.

I think we can definitely look forward to more "in-depth" interviews and (via Brian Ross)investigative journalism with Diane in charge. I think she and the people at ABC News are aware of how aggravated people have become with superficial two second mentions and fluff pieces.

I'm not sure if this is even possible, but Diane could easily get her numbers up to NBC News territory if she does more interviews with people like Ahmadinejad and Obama. I'd love to see her interview Scott Brown about how what his plans are (RE: Health Care) once he is sworn in.

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I've been tuning into ABC nightly news lately, where I used to watch CBS... and I have to say, Diane Sawyer is the sh!t. I didn't mind Katie Couric, but after comparing her to Diane... there's just no competition. Something about Couric doesn't come off right. I don't know if she's too "perky" looking, or if she seems like a fluff reporter who "fell into" serious, hard news. But she almost comes across as someone who is pretending, I just can't put my finger on it. Diane comes across as someone who lives and breathes the news, she speaks with more dignity, more authority. I can certainly see why the ratings are spiking. I'm going to continue to watch her.

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<p>

<span style=font-size:19.5pt;"><font face="Verdana">ABC News' Diane Sawyer gamble pays off</font></span>

<span style=font-size:10.5pt;"><b><font face="Verdana">She's more patrician than Everywoman, and it's working for her as ABC's anchor.</font></b></span>

<span style=font-size:7.5pt;"><b><font face="Tahoma">By Mary McNamara</font></b></span>

<span style="font-size:10.5pt;"><font face="Georgia">Quietly taking over as anchor from Charles Gibson at " ABC World News" at the end of last year, Diane Sawyer brought with her not only an impressive résumé, an excellent name-recognition rating and some pretty cool new graphics, but also a remarkably counterintuitive manner.

In a world dominated by YouTube moments and professional hysterics, Sawyer exudes an alarming level of elegance. From the moment she opened her show -- "Good evening, and it is so good to be here with you tonight" -- it was clear that she was not going to so much report the news as preside over a series of conversations about the news, conversations she simply must share with you, her personally invited viewer.

And if ratings are any indication, Sawyer may be able to succeed where Katie Couric hasn't quite, blending the undeniable if troubling trend toward emo-journalism while still commanding the gravitas necessary for a serious news organization. (Both trail NBC News' Brian Williams in the ratings.)

If nothing else, Sawyer's early success proves that Americans are not as disgusted with the media, or cultural, elite as they seem -- from the moment she left her memoir-writing job with former President Nixon to become the first female host of " 60 Minutes," Sawyer, with her patrician good looks, has been groomed to be a star.

Even so, the folks at ABC were taking a bit of a gamble when they hired Sawyer to compete with Couric at CBS. While the two share a gender and some job history similarities -- Couric still contributes pieces as a correspondent on "60 Minutes" and both came off successful morning show runs -- they are in tone and mien as different as night and day, or Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer.

Given to laughter and wide, dazzling smiles, Couric is 12 years younger than Sawyer and trades on a high-energy likability often characterized as perkiness, a word no thinking person would ever use to describe Sawyer. Where Couric has developed a brand of bouncy determination, a seasoned extension of the intrepid girl reporter, Sawyer has always been the Katharine Hepburnofthe newsroom, classy in white collared shirts, radiating a passionate but still clearly intellectual concern for what is happening in the world around her.

Certainly during her first month in the big chair she's had reason to be concerned -- the Christmas bombing attempt, the healthcare crisis, the earthquake in Haiti, the upset in Massachusetts all demanded of its television reporters and newscasters a heightened sense of urgency, sorrow and exasperation, which Sawyer is well-equipped to deliver. Interviewing President Obama, she used the manner of a worried friend and sympathetic fellow public figure to soften the audacity of asking him, "With all this coming at you, have you ever thought that one term might be enough?" (A question the equally socially flexible president handled with ease and did not, of course, answer.)

It doesn't always work perfectly. Even when she's reporting good or funny news -- the crime rate is down, men are now marrying for money -- Sawyer appears troubled by what she's having to tell you. She's a big head-bobber, with a slightly sideways approach to the camera that she may have borrowed from the late Lady Diana, and though she never actually frowns (one suspects her forehead has lost the physical ability to actually frown), she often seems to be frowning. Her eyes crinkle up and her lovely alto voice climbs a bit just to let viewers know that she is not just a heartless newscaster reporting the news but also a fellow citizen reacting to it.

That is, of course, part of the current job description. The granite jaws and unflappable stoicism that make Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid giants doesn't play so well these days. We want our newscasters, even our big-time newscasters, more accessible and conversational, still objective, of course, but asking questions that we might ask ourselves, rather than working off some inflexible template acquired at journalism school.

If the news is bad, or frustrating, or puzzling, we want them to show that too. It isn't enough to ask the White House correspondent how Congress is reacting to the Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race and leave it at that. A good TV anchor nowadays is like a high-powered hostess, perpetually drawing conversation from some well informed but possibly shy guest -- of course, Capitol Hill is in a dither and the president must be beside himself, but you're right there. What on Earth are people saying?

Sadly enough, this shift in tone is why we finally have two women hosting the nightly news. (Well, that and Oprah Winfrey, who is responsible for so many shifts in popular culture.) Women are still perceived as being, in general, more emotional, more conversational than men (and woe to the woman who, like Hillary Clinton, does not conform). Increasingly, we expect a kitchen-table tone to our news, an intimacy that a generation ago would have been considered too domestic to be smart.

Not that Sawyer is domestic, far from it. She may be conversational, but in a way far more White House dinner party than kitchen table.

With her classic features and low-pitched voice, she emanates an intellectual pedigree that she actually possesses -- Sawyer has indeed covered wars and interviewed most living heads of state, she is married to director Mike Nichols, she does hang out with Meryl Streep. A living, breathing member of the much-derided media elite, Sawyer still tries her best to seem like one of us, her voice near breaking as she stands on the tarmac in Port-au-Prince wondering when someone was going to actually deliver all that food and water to the Haitians.

She isn't one of us, of course; the Everywoman points all go to Couric, which is what makes Sawyer's higher ratings so interesting. Like Cooper, Sawyer is smart and seemingly sincere but sleek too, removed from the mainstream by her own physical perfection and gilded life.

In studio interviews especially, Sawyer often appears almost incandescent, bathed in a golden light achieved, one supposes, by precise placement of reflective panels and the miracle of digital technology. Like all superstar journalists, she is, at best, an equal draw to her one-on-one interviews and at worst, she outshines her subject, which may have been OK on "Good Morning America" but is a bit more alarming on the nightly "World News."

All of which makes Sawyer a fascinating bridge between the new world order and the old. If nothing else, she is a striking and welcome contrast to the often instantly constructed personalities of younger newscasters -- she hasn't changed much since her days at "60 Minutes" and it seems to be working just fine.

Amid all the fear and messiness as the old media surrender, spitting and flailing, to the new, Diane Sawyer is a beacon, proof that you do not always have to stoop to conquer.

[email protected] </font></span>

<span style="font-size:7.5pt;"><b><font face="Tahoma">http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-sawyer5-2010feb05,0,7909343.story</font></b></span></p>

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HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!

I was so down with this review until I read that Katie Couric is "every woman." I can't speak for women(because I'm not one), but what is so everywoman about a pan up shot from her heels up when she initially did the Evening News? What is so every woman about her delivery? Couric comes off as a bratty, sophomoric school newspaper reporter when interviewing the heavy hitters. She's so desperate to be taken seriously and it shows.

The reporter made interesting and great points about Diane(both good and bad), but his shock about Diane's ratings rising because Katie appeals more to Middle America sensibilities is just wrong.

People have gravitated to Diane, some out of curiosity and others because she features more interesting stories and asks the tough questions. Also, you have to look at the stories she features. I can't speak for the competition, because I haven't seen either of their programs in ages, but Diane's program features far more interesting pieces about stuff that should concern us or piss us off(a more professional, much less crazy crazy Glenn Beck if you will). For example: her second day anchoring World News, investigative correspondent Brian Ross featured a story about the TSA Employees doing a two week convention at a swanky, high priced hotel with lots of complimentary food and alcohol. Paid for with OUR tax dollars!? Who doesn't want to watch a story like that and get angry about it when your choices are yet another Global Warming story on NBC Nightly News or the umpteenth story about Heart Disease that you can catch on any news channel?

Diane features stories people want to watch, people want to see. In these shady economic times, people are more interested in where their money and their tax dollars are going. ABCNews is wise to follow this trend and it's obvious they're listening to what the people want to. Whether it will push them into first place, who knows(likely not). But Diane is a proven ratings grabber.

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Even so, the folks at ABC were taking a bit of a gamble when they hired Sawyer to compete with Couric at CBS. While the two share a gender and some job history similarities -- Couric still contributes pieces as a correspondent on "60 Minutes" and both came off successful morning show runs -- they are in tone and mien as different as night and day, or Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer.

Sawyer spent decades in primetime. She only went to morning in the first place to bail GMA out.

I'm not even that interested in any of the news anchors, they all come across as fake and condescending to me, but to compare Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric is absurd. Sawyer has been presenting what amounts to strong news (by network standards) for quite a while now. Primetime Live might not be on the level of Peter Jennings but it's not the same as guffawing with balding Matt Lauer. Couric's biggest calling card was her years as the perky, loveable Today host. Yes, she became harder and colder as the years passed, but that didn't make people like her more, it did the opposite. She was the morning news version of Kathie Lee, or Meg Ryan, a hard shell of what had once been a genuine smile. No one cared about Katie as a newsperson or a primetime presence. And CBS viewers were even less likely to care.

It's like comparing Katherine Hepburn to Debbie Reynolds.

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Oh, Carl, I love it how you pull something out and rip it apart even if it's not the point. :D Like that primetime thing.

Couric and Sawyer are comparable because they do the same thing — anchor the evening news. That alone makes them comparable. And the comparison is even better/more interesting if it's about two completely different women.

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Oh, Carl, I love it how you pull something out and rip it apart even if it's not the point. :D Like that primetime thing.

Couric and Sawyer are comparable because they do the same thing — anchor the evening news. That alone makes them comparable. And the comparison is even better/more interesting if it's about two completely different women.

I think the daytime/primetime comment is a part of the point because it sets up an equivalence that these two ladies are similar. That they are both from daytime and are now anchoring the news. Morning shows are just a footnote in Diane Sawyer's career. Couric, aside from some stints here and there no one cared about, was only known for her morning show stint.

They do have some things in common, but then, so do Sawyer and Brian Williams, yet the article barely even mentions Williams.

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HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!

Couric comes off as a bratty, sophomoric school newspaper reporter when interviewing the heavy hitters. She's so desperate to be taken seriously and it shows.

It's a matter, I think, of her appearing to be out of her depth.

People have gravitated to Diane, some out of curiosity and others because she features more interesting stories and asks the tough questions.

I like her because of the intelligence, professionalism, and gravitas she brings to her work. When it comes to news, I want someone who is really SERIOUS and shows it.

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I think the daytime/primetime comment is a part of the point because it sets up an equivalence that these two ladies are similar. That they are both from daytime and are now anchoring the news. Morning shows are just a footnote in Diane Sawyer's career. Couric, aside from some stints here and there no one cared about, was only known for her morning show stint.

They do have some things in common, but then, so do Sawyer and Brian Williams, yet the article barely even mentions Williams.

I think she brings some credibility to the role. Diane Sawyer did not grow up on GMA she was a reporter and worked at CBS as a reporter, a news anchor fillin, and was on 60 minutes for a few before joining ABC amd held various news related roles at ABC before joining GMA. I find her more professional and credible. Doesn't make her so, it's just my impression of her.

But I'd have to agree. Why compare Sawyer to Couric. Where's Brian Williams in this whole matrix. It's funny how no one in any of these articles or columns talks about him or NBC News much

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But I'd have to agree. Why compare Sawyer to Couric. Where's Brian Williams in this whole matrix. It's funny how no one in any of these articles or columns talks about him or NBC News much

Because they are women in what once was — and really still is — a male-dominated area. That's another thing they have in common (news anchors + both are women).

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