How Did the Respectable News Lady Do on That Show You Don't Watch?

Last night Diane Sawyer debuted as anchor of ABC World News Tonight. How'd she do? We have no idea, because we have jobs, lives, and internet access. So let's see what the people who're paid to watch have to say.

Katie Couric's ascension to the anchor chair was attended by a ceaseless and intrusive promotional blitz that ended up serving as a handy contrast to the epic editorial and commercial failure that her newscast became. Having learned that lesson well, ABC News has gone for a stealth transition, which makes sense inasmuch as nobody really cares who is reading from a teleprompter on TV while they're on the way home from work anyway. As the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley puts it, "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."

So here's the amalgamated review of Sawyer's first night doing something that ultimately doesn't matter to anyone but shut-ins and the unemployed:

  • She's a Stone Cold Fox
    The Washington Post's Tom Shales: "Ideally, the gorgeousness of Diane Sawyer should not be a factor in assessing her performance as anchor of ABC's nightly news, which she now is. But television, though it's sometimes forgotten, remains a visual medium, and appearance indeed counts."
  • She Can Wave Paper at Dictators
    Sawyer's big get for the first broadcast was a sit-down with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, so you can tell she's serious. Shales: "She questioned the evasive Ahmadinejad, who still squints so severely that he often appears to be blind, about his country's alleged testing of a 'neutron initiator,' a device needed in the construction of nuclear weapons, but Ahmadinejad dismissed documents pertaining to the device as part of 'a repetitive and tasteless joke.' Referring to Sawyer once as a 'respectable lady,' Ahmadinejad claimed that Iran has more freedom 'than in America' when asked about the reported jailing or executing of free-speech protesters. It was solid reportage by Sawyer, if not the kind of thing likely to precipitate dozens of headlines or to have other newscasters kicking themselves in jealous disgruntlement."
  • Let's Call It a 'Soft Launch'
    The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik: "What should have been a fast, smooth flow of images surrounding new anchor Diane Sawyer seemed to derail at one point leaving viewers with a screen full of nothing but blue color instead of Sawyer's talking head or video of the story she was trying to tease. The TelePrompter might also have frozen because Sawyer hesitated and then said the word 'presidents' instead of 'presents' for an upcoming piece on how the snow has or hasn't affected gifts ordered online for pre-Christmas delivery. One couldn't help but notice."

  • Shales: "Footage of Brian Ross, the great investigative reporter, materialized at the wrong time in the second half of the broadcast, with Sawyer hastily explaining to viewers that they'd just seen a glimpse of a Ross report scheduled for Tuesday night."
  • The Associated Press' David Bauder: "The show's only real glitch came shortly before a commercial break. Sawyer was previewing a story on actress Brittany Murphy's death and a picture of Ahmadinejad appeared on the screen."
  • Her Use of the Second Person Was Craven and Distracting
    Shales: "The goal was apparently intimacy, with Sawyer and some of the correspondents on the program making conscious attempts to address the viewer as a single 'you' — as in Sawyer's introductory 'It is so good to be here with you tonight'— and such later viewer-directed remarks as 'You have been sending in questions all day' about health care. Correspondent Jonathan Karl began a tour of the weighty health-care legislation with: 'Inside the bill you'll find...'"
  • A Vicious Ambition Lurks Behind Her Drowsy Smile
    Stanley: "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.... 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.'"
  • She's a LIBERAL, Just Like Katie Couric, and Loves Iranian Terrorists
    Some idiot at the New York Post: "As Diane Sawyer took the hot seat at ABC's World News last night behind teases about her interview with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the question hung in the air: Would she be as tough on Iran's 'president' as her colleague Katie Couric was on Sarah Palin? Hint: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dubbed Sawyer, 'respectable lady.'"
  • She's Old Enough For Social Security
    Bauder: "Her 64th birthday is Tuesday." Happy birthday, Diane! We're sure she's just thrilled that Bauder squeezed that datapoint in.