This just in (sorry, had to do it): Diane Sawyer is taking over Charles Gibson’s role as anchor at ABC’s nightly news program, World News. Gibson announced this morning that he would retire from ABC and World News where he served as the lead anchor since 2006, by the end of this year. His replacement? Longtime Good Morning America anchor Diane Sawyer. This makes Sawyer the second female anchor in a major network’s evening news broadcast following Katie Couric’s current stint at NBC’s Nightly News. This also means that two out of three major network’s evening news broadcasts will now be anchored by women. So, yay, feminism, right? Two ladies serving as anchors at network nightly news programs! The only problem is, the network nightly news isn’t what it used to be. While being the anchor of a network nightly news program was once considered one of the most prestigious positions for a television journalist to take, not that many people care about the nightly news anymore. Ratings have been declining for all three major networks since the early ’90s with the rise of 24-hour cable news networks and the internet. Viewers can now get their news at any time of the idea so the nightly news hour has become less and less important in the average television viewer’s day. Think about it: when was the last time you watched the network nightly news? Probably back when Couric interviewed Sarah Palin nearly a year ago?
The real question is, could the falling prestige of the nightly news perhaps contribute to female anchors taking over? It is hard to say, however it is obvious that both CBS and ABC are and were trying to bring the popular morning news audience (where Couric and Sawyer both worked before moving to the nightly news) over to the lonely nightly news slot. Morning news on networks is still popular, mostly because the cable news network morning offerings are either boring or headdesk-style stupid. So, morning shows are more profitable and popular and get loads more attention from the blogs. Why would Sawyer and Couric want to leave their morning shifts for a drying news hour? As Gawker points out, the answer could be the prestige that the network nightly news anchor’s position still holds over television journalists. If you’ve worked your whole career towards one job goal it can be pretty hard to leave that dream when you are finally offered it, even if it is less important than it used to be.
Still, we hope that the networks aren’t just “taking risks” with female nightly news anchors just because they have little to lose at this point. The stereotype that women can’t “do news” has faded but still exists, as was evidenced by the uproar when Couric took the nightly news slot just three years ago. Both Couric and Sawyer are established journalists with long careers in TV. They are 100% qualified for the best (for now) position on network news. We wish Sawyer the best of luck with her new position and are happy that women are being taken more seriously in the media, we just wish they weren’t tied down to a sinking ship.