ABC announced Charlie Gibson’s retirement today. He’s 66.
It’s an exhausting job–the kind where you’re on-call 24/7. Maybe he just felt it was time.
There’s nothing in this whole affair that suggests it’s a Cronkite/Rather thing… that he’s being pushed. Diane Sawyer moves from GMA to World News as the new anchor.
It’s easy to misunderstand the importance of the news anchor. Most of what we see is nothing more than a reader. Many news managers (who should know better) fail to see beyond that superficiality. That’s why there are so many pretty, though vacuous, boys and girls on the news.
The anchor is the firewall. He/she is the last chance to check something before it hits air.
A good news anchor does more than just read. A good news anchor understands the context of the story and makes sure what’s on reflects that. Some of the more adept anchors also become managing editors–acknowledgment of that firewall.
I worked with Charlie Gibson a bunch of times when I used to fill-in on GMA (GMA–you’ve still got my number, right?). He is without a doubt the smartest and best informed anchor I’ve ever known. A graduate of Sidwell Friends School in Washington (where Chelsea Clinton went), he later graduated Princeton.
He will be missed.
That being said the impact of the single evening network news has diminished in this 24/7 cable/Internet era. TVNewser printed the combined evening viewers for the three networks over the past few years and the trend isn’t good.
Week of August 28, 2006: 23,380,000
Week of August 27, 2007: 21,310,000
Week of August 25, 2008: 20,290,000
Week of August 24, 2009: 20,330,000
Good luck to Diane Sawyer, though it’s tough to wonder if Charlie is really the last of the heavy hitters in that chair.