News that Diane Sawyer will replace the retiring ABC World News Tonight anchor Charlie Gibson naturally means everything on the national news front is the same, but suddenly, incredibly different. Or not. It does mean that over the next few days we will see a spate of newspaper and web stories comparing and contrasting Sawyer with the network’s other female anchor, the beloved but ratings befuddled Katie Couric of CBS Evening News. Lots to be said on that front. What doesn’t need any analysis, though, are Sawyer’s qualifications. Like Couric, she is top notch – actually, way more experienced.
The more interesting question is will either of these anchors (let’s just do away with the asterisk-like mention they are women) make the list of most trusted or all-time best anchors? According to a recent TIME magazine poll, Jon Stewart was the most trusted anchor in America, topping NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Gibson and Couric. As for the list of the 10 greatest network anchors, do you think either of them will make the list? Should they? Should Williams or Gibson? What about those on CNN and Fox? Does the Silver Fox Anderson Cooper rank? Here’s our list.
1. Walter Cronkite (CBS Evening News for 19 years, from 1962 to 81): The most trusted man in America. Nothing more needs to be said.
2. Harry Reasoner (ABC World News Tonight from 1970 to 1978): Already a CBS legend when he went to ABC, he brought crusty integrity and intelligence.
3. Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report 1959 to 1970): The best voices and chemistry of any anchor team, they set a standard that bridged generations. Also the first network news to broadcast in color.
4. Tom Brokaw (NBC Nightly News 1982 to 2004): A great broadcaster and writers, just a great newsman, with a sixth sense for how Americans think about America.
5. Peter Jennings (ABC World News Tonight from 1983 until 2005): A high school dropout, he worked harder and thought harder and brought experience and credibility to the nightly news.
6. Anderson Cooper (CNN 2002 to the present): Yes, he’s hot and we love him, but he has brought real chops, cool and a contemporary, intelligent, multiplatform urgency to a 60-year-old format.
7. Diane Sawyer (ABC World News Tonight starting in 2010): For whatever reason, she is going to deliver what Katie – and many others – haven’t. She’s sharp, trusted, connected and interesting to watch.
8. Dan Rather (CBS Evening News from 1981 to 2005): For many in the ’80s, he was the ultimate newsman on the scene; off screen may have been another matter.
9. Bernard Shaw (CNN from 1980 to 2001): He combined class and strength, and will always be remembered for his reporting from the Gulf, bringing many Americans their first live view of war.
10. Howard K. Smith (ABC World News Tonight from 1969 to 1976): He left a 20-year career at CBS after the network refused to support his report on a clash between civil rights advocates and Birmingham, AL police, then co-anchored over the years with Frank Reynolds, Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters