David Muir to be New Anchor at ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’

A departure from the traditional model: David Muir, who takes over for Diane Sawyer as the anchor of “ABC World News Tonight” this week. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times
A departure from the traditional model: David Muir, who takes over for Diane Sawyer as the anchor of “ABC World News Tonight” this week. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

As a 12-year-old nightly news addict in Syracuse, David Muir wrote a letter to the lead anchor of the local CBS affiliate, Ron Curtis, asking him how to become a TV reporter.

The young Mr. Muir checked the mailbox every day until he finally received a typewritten response from the anchorman. He can still recite the last three lines (without help from a teleprompter): “Competition in television news is keen. There is always room for the right person. It could be you.”

Turns out, it was. This week, Mr. Muir will complete his rapid rise through the competitive ranks of TV news as he officially assumes the anchor chair at “ABC World News Tonight,” succeeding Diane Sawyer, who has held the position since late 2009.

“This is my dream job, no question,” Mr. Muir said recently in an interview in his office at ABC. On the wall behind his desk was a framed photo of him on assignment in Africa in 2011, posing in a snug black T-shirt with a group of child refugees.

Now 40, this chiseled newscaster with a side sweep of thick brown hair will become the youngest national evening news anchor in 50 years. His hiring represents the most aggressive attempt yet to find a nightly anchor for the modern era. With Mr. Muir, ABC’s bet is that today’s viewer is ready to swap a more traditional authority figure for someone open, accessible and accustomed to sharing his thoughts and feelings through social media.

The naming of a new nightly news anchor was once considered a major event: Here was the individual — or one of three, anyway — who would be in your living room every evening catching you up on the day’s most important events. But Mr. Muir’s appointment this summer has occasioned relatively little fanfare.

There are some obvious explanations for this. He has anchored ABC’s weekend broadcast since early 2011 and is the co-anchor of the ABC newsmagazine “20/20”; his is not an unknown face. His promotion was also overshadowed by the news that his colleague George Stephanopolous, the co-host of “Good Morning America,” would assume Ms. Sawyer’s role as chief anchor at ABC.

But the fact that most people have not heard much about ABC’s new anchor is mostly a reflection of the diminished importance of the evening news in the modern media world: Who needs someone to catch them up on the day’s events in the age of the smartphone?

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Source: The New York Times | JONATHAN MAHLER

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