When Diane Sawyer was up for a job at CBS News in the late 1970s, I was wary. She had worked for years in the press office at the Nixon White House and then helping the resigned-before-he-was-impeached former president with his memoirs in San Clemente, California. She was even suspected of being Deep Throat, the source of leaks of classified information during the Watergate scandal. A character playing Sawyer shows up in the movie Frost/Nixon, but that was a cinematic contrivance.
Diane Sawyer turned out to be not bad, first as a reporter, then fairly quickly as the first female correspondent on 60 Minutes, the long-running investigative newsmagazine.
After five years with 60 Minutes (1984-1989), she moved to ABC News to co-anchor various news magazines (Primetime Live, 20/20). “In 1999, Sawyer returned to the 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 for far longer than anticipated.”
I had been watching ABC World News, going back to the days of Peter Jennings, who I thought was a consummate newsman, until he was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2005, and died a few months later. I stayed with the network through the brief Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas period, and the version with Charles Gibson.
“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 [moved] to ABC World News on December 21, 2009, three days after Gibson’s departure.”
But the show evolved into having more “news you can use” features, the type of programming appropriate for GMA but what probably would have Jennings rolling over in his grave. ABC News had a glitzy “what’s trending” on social media segment and the periodic, mildly jingoistic “Made in America” pieces; I helped find a couple of the entrepreneurs.
After a couple of years, I found the show totally unwatchable, especially after the first commercial, and started watching other programs, almost anything. Sawyer left in the anchor desk in 2014 and concentrated on specials. Her piece on Julie Andrews I found irritating, seemingly more about how strenuous the hills in The Sound of Music were for the interviewer than new information about the subject.
Still, I think that Barbara Walters-like celebrity journalism does have its place. Who else had the soft news cred to have interviewed Bruce Jenner just before the transition to Caitlyn? And I appreciated how she gave her GMA colleagues the scoop the death of her husband, Mike Nichols, in November 2014.
I recognize that media will make more of the competition between two women, no matter the field, such as Sawyer’s rivalry with Barbara Walters or Katie Couric.
So I can appreciate her accomplishments, even her style is not always my cuppa.