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.