By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A cheap shot thrown at Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer

Someone will probably try to blame this on the low journalistic standards of them there internets. But the perpetrator of today’s insult against Diane Sawyer — someone I had not previously considered defending — has worked for the Wall Street Journal and written for the New York Times and other publications. And her editor is the legendary Tina Brown.

But not to back into this. According to Rebecca Dana of Brown’s Daily Beast, Charles Gibson was “livid” when he learned that Sawyer would replace him as anchor of ABC’s “World News.” Here’s the relevant paragraph:

Gibson didn’t do interviews this time, but said in a statement that his “heart is full of gratitude.” Although they worked closely for more than a decade, Gibson makes no direct reference to Sawyer in the statement, and a source close to the departing anchor described him as “livid” that she’s succeeding him. An ABC executive called this “nonsense,” and Westin said he told Gibson from their earliest conversations about his retirement that Sawyer would be his replacement.

That’s it. There is nothing else in Dana’s longish piece to suggest that Gibson has a problem with Sawyer. And, as Westin says, there was really no other logical replacement (George Stephanopoulos?), so Gibson couldn’t have been surprised. Dana has one anonymous source who claims Gibson is “livid,” and another who says it’s “nonsense.” What is the value of this bit of gossip?

I realize that the source “close” to Gibson may in fact be Gibson himself. But since the reader has no way of knowing, so what? Moreover, we have no idea why Gibson might be livid. Is it because he thinks Sawyer lacks sufficient gravitas? Or does he suspect her of stealing pencils out of his desk drawer?

Sawyer comes off as quite solicitous of Gibson in Howard Kurtz’s account for the Washington Post, reportedly asking ABC News president David Westin, “Can’t we talk Charlie into staying?” Kurtz also writes:

The friendship between Sawyer and Gibson — who last worked together moderating a health-care forum with President Obama — dates to 1998, when both agreed to fill in at the floundering “GMA” in a temporary assignment that became permanent.

Kurtz is too good a reporter to have used the word “friendship” if he’d picked up any buzz that there was a rift between Sawyer and Gibson.

Sawyer will do a perfectly fine job of anchoring the evening newscast. She wouldn’t have been my choice, given her years as a tabloid sob sister. But, then again, I’m not in the demographic for the network newscasts: I’m only 53, about two decades too young.

As for Rebecca Dana’s gossipy account, it’s a cheap shot. Even if we later learn there’s something to it, her claim that Gibson was “livid” is based on one anonymous source, with no context or explanation. Not good enough.

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  1. Agree that this is sloppy unsubstantiated reporting by Dana. Sawyer has done one-too-many Michael Jackson interviews to bring gravitas to the network anchor chair, if the chair belonged to Cronkite or Chancellor. However, Sawyer is just as perky as Couric, and if she can get MiKe Nichols to write her some material, just as funny as Brian Williams. But a “fresh face”? I think not.

  2. Ron From Seattle

    Yeah, she would not have been my first choice either. Ever since she asked Michael Jackson what his penis looked like back in 2001 or so, I have not been able to watch her.

  3. lkcape

    Do I have to point out that Gibson’s “opinion” of his replacement, no matter what it might be, is irrelevant?

    Unless he owns the company, after his retirement, it is none of his business.

  4. bostonmediawatch

    She says he’s livid, but doesn’t offer up even a theory as to why (ie. either personal animus or that he wanted to name his own successor, which is ridiculous to expect anyway).

    It’s just a gaping hole in the middle of the piece. Not that I care about the story.

    Maybe it got edited out?

    That’s another thing that drives me nuts, bad editing via cuts; you get to the 10th graph in a story and it says something like

    “Goldberg, who formerly worked for…”

    Goldberg? Who the hell is Goldberg and where did he come from? He never got mentioned before this…

  5. George Williams

    This sounds like something that would show up in US rather than a serious media blog such as your own. I hope I am correct when I say that not many of your readers really care about this sort of thing.

  6. Everyone should be livid. The most biased journalist out there will be taking over the ABC news desk. This will now be the CNN of “free” TV.

  7. Neil

    I’ve never seen Dan so engaged in a ‘people magazine’ story about a cat fight between network anchors.

    You’d think a media professor/critic would know the difference between news and personality schlock.

    Ok this week we had, this story, and the ‘who got it first’, and Dan’s entirely misread ‘righteous gotcha’ about the legislator who spent he weekend in NH and bought booze on his trip home.

    As Ted once said to Donald Rumsfeld, “In baseball it’s three strikes and you’re out, What is it in” teaching journalism?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Neil: Rep. Michael Rodrigues has announced he’ll pay the tax on the booze. Oh, yeah, I find his explanation totally credible. Whenever I take a bathroom break, the first thing I always think of is to buy a case of hard liquor.

  8. Dunwich

    Is Charlie capable of being “livid” about anything?

    I’m a little surprised to hear questions of gravitas. If an event should occur, you have a Pro-from-Dover ready. Otherwise, who cares: Diane’s fine.

    $$$ Evening News –today–is just repeat programming to provide content, for those Sr.Citizen Med’s spots.

  9. Neil

    Dan: Was this front page story, really a righteous gotcha as you continue to assert and re-assert? At least acknowledge front page was overkill. Let’s assess the scope of the alleged fraud.

    What is the tax due on ‘three bottles of hard liquor and two bottles of wine’ at 6.25%? 5 bottles x $20 each is about


    The horror.

    Have you ever been in NH and stopped at the NH liquor store becuase of the public restrooms? I have. Do you have any evidence that the state reps claim was a lie? I don’t. Do you?

    If you believe he’s covering up wrong-doing, it certainly sounds like an excuse, but if you don’t believe he’s covering up wrong-doing?

    Finally, have you no explanation for the other two strikes?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Not sure how this ended up in the Diane Sawyer thread. But Rodrigues’ booze cruise is a classic front-page Herald story. To claim it doesn’t belong on page one is to misunderstand what the Herald is about. You’ve got hypocrisy by a legislator who gets caught in the act and populist outrage. What more do you want?

  10. lafcadio mullarkey

    Who is this “Neil” interloper, and what the hell does he care what Dan writes about?

    I never understand comments that question the blogger’s choice of topic. It’s Dan’s blog, and he can write about whatever the hell he wants to write about.

  11. lkcape

    Abolutely… Dan can write about whatever he wants.

    He has this blog, and comments, both for and against his position, are the price he pays for choosing to put himself in the spotlight.

    I am sure that even Dan appreciates that.

    And BTW, as an academic, he should be well versed in, and decidedly in favor of, peer review, even if he thinks the commentators are somewhat less than peers.

  12. lafcadio mullarkey

    At any rate, the front page of the Herald, and “overkill” are mutually exclusive.

  13. LFNeilson

    A. DK didn’t raise the issue of Rep. Rodrigues (RR) buying the liquor. It was already drunk by the time he got to it.

    B. It isn’t a matter of how much tax RR owed, but the principle. Why do people buy liquor in NH? Because the taxes in Mass. are higher, and therefore, the price in NH is lower. And who can control that? Legislators.

    C. By buying in NH, RR was chasing revenue from Mass. vendors to NH while participating in the creation of laws that make it impossible for Mass. vendors to compete.

    D. Even though he bought the liquor in NH, Mass. still claims a “use tax” on any purchases, not only from RR but from anyone bring untaxed liquor into the state. If RR doesn’t like that tax, maybe he should file a bill to repeal it.

  14. lkcape

    Both ears and the tail?

  15. Neil

    You’ve got hypocrisy by a legislator who gets caught in the act and populist outrage.

    If he spent the weekend in NH, should we argue (to be logically consistent) that by doing so he was hypocritical for not spending his weekend lodging and meal money in MA? No, no one would say he can’t spend his weekend trip money in NH. If this is a case, which I think it is, of a guy bought booze on his way home from a weekend in NH, then I find no hypocrisy. If he drove there to avoid the tax, then I would say, fair enough, becuase he voted to increase the sales tax from 5-6.25% and the sales tax on booze from 0 to 6.25%, he is subject to claims of hypocrisy by teabaggers, who cannot connect the relationship between state revenue to state services.

    To claim it doesn’t belong on page one is to misunderstand what the Herald is about. You’ve got hypocrisy by a legislator who gets caught in the act and populist outrage.

    Caught in the act of what? This “scandal” was manufactured by the Herald. The facts of the case don’t support scandal. Bad optics, yes. Scandal, far from it.

    The Herald calls itself a newspaper, doesn’t it?

    They have an obligation to report all the facts, mot just the ones that make it look like he drove up their on his lunch break.

  16. Neil

    Does Dan want to be Diane Sawyer and involved in the office politics of the elite media stars? How does this story square with reputable journalistic content as opposed to personality cult people magazine drama?

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