Sawyer mum about `GMA' plans

After eight years, co-anchor may be thinking of leaving

January 15, 2007|By Matea Gold | Matea Gold,Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK -- At ABC News, the talk lately has centered on one question: What's Diane going to do?

After a year in which the television news industry absorbed Katie Couric's move to CBS Evening News and Meredith Vieira's jump to NBC's Today show, Diane Sawyer is poised to trigger more upheaval as she considers whether to continue her eight-year run on Good Morning America.

The departure of Sawyer - perhaps the news division's biggest luminary - would be a substantial blow to GMA, the most profitable program at ABC News and a show on which she has considerable influence.

Sawyer has not yet given news executives an indication of her plans, according to network sources. The 61-year-old anchor is known for being inscrutable, but those close to her believe she has not made up her mind about whether to remain on the morning show. One factor complicating her decision: the lack of other A-list broadcasting jobs up for grabs.

The uncertainty about her next move has caused considerable anxiety among ABC officials, who are not eager to see her leave GMA on the heels of her longtime co-anchor Charles Gibson, who switched to the evening newscast last spring.

Executives fret that GMA would founder without her, especially as the program is still finding its footing since the arrival of two on-air hires this season: news anchor Chris Cuomo and weatherman Sam Champion. Anchor Robin Roberts has been in her post since May 2005 but has a lower profile than her well-known co-host.

Sawyer has two years on her ABC contract, but her obligation to GMA is less explicit. She joined the show in 1999 with Gibson on a temporary basis to help shore up the second-place program, a status that technically has not changed.

After Gibson moved to World News, Sawyer said she planned to stay at GMA through at least part of 2007.

"I love these people and I love their passion, and I learn from them daily," she said in June. "I am going to stay and do whatever I can to make it strong and stable."

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said her commitment to GMA has no timetable.

"She is very much enjoying what she's doing right now," Schneider added. "She is very engaged, loves the new team and has had an incredible run of great reporting."

While Sawyer's immediate plans remain an enigma, her future on GMA is widely viewed as intertwined with the fortunes of the program.

Since Gibson left, the morning show has lost ground to Today, whose lead over GMA has grown from an average of 670,000 viewers at this point last season to 825,000 viewers so far this season, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Matea Gold writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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