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Through Nixon and “60 Minutes” — Sawyer’s rise to news anchor

September 2, 2009

Diane Sawyer’s ascension to the top of the U.S. broadcast news pyramid, as an anchor on a nightly newscast for ABC, has been a long time in the making.diane-sawyer

Sawyer began as a “weather girl” on a television station in her native Kentucky, before she joined the press office of then President Richard Nixon, where she lasted through the Watergate scandal and later helped the ex-president prepare for his interviews with British journalist David Frost, whose encounter with Nixon was captured in the 2008 Oscar-nominated movie “Frost/Nixon.”

In 1978, Sawyer joined the news team of U.S. network CBS, where she later became the first woman to co-anchor “60 Minutes.” In recent years, Sawyer hosted morning chat show “Good Morning America” on ABC, but this year she made waves with a “20/20″ report called “A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains,” that explored poverty in Appalachia. In the special, Sawyer interviewed a doctor who said residents of that part of the United States are poorer than people from where he grew up in India, and Sawyer visited a mine and profiled embattled residents of the region.

Back in 2006, when Katie Couric was promoted from NBC morning program “Today” to take over “CBS Evening News,” some critics doubted whether she had the journalism credentials to make her ready for the job. But few media commentators had the same criticism for Sawyer following the announcement that she would take over at ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

A commentator at the magazine Newsweek wrote on a blog titled “Why Diane Sawyer Will Be Better Than Katie Couric” that Sawyer “is a more seasoned newswoman, with a firsthand knowledge of politics.”

But in another blog at the Los Angeles Times, a writer suggested that Sawyer has all the credentials to become the nightly news anchor, but that she should “keep her day job” because eroding viewership for evening newscasts means that morning shows are the only game in town.

Sawyer will look to reverse that trend on “World News Tonight,” when she takes over in January.

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