From The New York Times:
There were no high-tech frills or showy experiments in Diane Sawyer’s brisk first night as anchor of “World News” on ABC. Instead, on Monday, the network draped its star in utter seriousness: Ms. Sawyer gamely sparred with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran about his country’s nuclear intentions and whether his government oppresses street protesters in Tehran.
Mr. Ahmadinejad didn’t really answer her questions, but he did address her as “respectable lady.”
Much fuss has been made about the fact that two of the three broadcast anchors are now women, but what Ms. Sawyer’s first nightly news program really signaled is the return of the alpha anchors. Behind a twinkly warmth, honed in countless “Good Morning America” appearances with pets, babies and diet experts, Ms. Sawyer appears to have the same high-octane drive and ambition as Brian Williams and Katie Couric.
Network anchors are a bit like European monarchs: they don’t really matter much anymore, but people still perk up for a royal wedding or a changing of the stars.
CBS, which weathered Dan Rather’s scandal-tinted abdication and the splashy ascension of Katie Couric, carries some of the melodrama and tabloid pizazz of Britain’s royal family. Like NBC before it, ABC News favors more orderly, tame transitions. ABC is closer to a Scandinavian monarchy: if there is an internal scramble for the throne, nobody outside the realm really cares; once crowned, the royals try to play down their privilege.
Ms. Sawyer’s was a studiously understated debut, but Monday’s program did provide some clues of how the tone and tempo of “World News” may change under her leadership. Charles Gibson, who stepped down last week after fewer than four years, brought an affable, unpretentious, slightly rumpled persona to the anchor job: he rarely seemed self-important or in a hurry, and he often let correspondents take on stories that more insecure anchors would hoard for themselves. His farewell on Friday was good-humored and not at all grandiose. He seemed genuinely happy to have had the job and genuinely happy to let it go to someone else.
Ms. Sawyer, who spent 10 years at “Good Morning America” waiting her turn for the top news job, seems intent on exotic travel and big “gets.”
It’s a marked game change for her rivals: just as Ms. Couric in 2006 became the first solo female anchor of a network news show, Brian Williams has spent much of his tenure at “NBC Nightly News” as a young Turk competing against two older, avuncular and laid-back newsmen, Mr. Gibson and Bob Schieffer of CBS, who filled in after Mr. Rather left his post ahead of schedule.
With Ms. Sawyer’s arrival, the three network anchors are evenly matched in looks and take-charge personality.