Amid Stiff Competition, ABC News Makes Progress with Anchor David Muir

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Earlier this year, David Muir spent weeks studying Spanish in anticipation of his August interview with Pope Francis, sitting down with a tutor several hours a week and practicing the language while strolling the streets of Manhattan.

The 41-year-old anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight spent a semester in Salamanca, Spain, as a college student, and a rusty bit of the language was still rattling around in his head. But being able to make small talk in the pope’s native tongue more proficiently, Muir figured, might trigger flashes of clarity about the man who had never before given an interview to a U.S. TV network.

Good thing, too. The pope wasn’t about to conduct an interview without a quick measure of the man who would query him for an hour. “We’re inside the Vatican walls and they send me outside to this courtyard and tell me the pope is going to emerge any second,” Muir tells me in his Manhattan office. “I’m standing there. And about 20 minutes go by, and the door opens. Instead of the pope, I get one hand that waves me in. So I walk through the door and standing right behind the door was Pope Francis. He simply wanted to meet me before we get in front of all these cameras. I knew I had only those few moments to put him at ease.”

Muir’s first words: “Su santidad. Es un honor concerlo.” (Your Holiness, it’s an honor to meet you.)

Muir’s preparation for the interview — a big coup for the network before the pope’s visit to the U.S. in September — is characteristic of the all-consuming ardor with which he approaches his job, colleagues and current and former bosses say.

The dapper newsman was named anchor of World News Tonight a year ago, slipping into the august chair once occupied by the likes of Peter Jennings, Diane Sawyer and Frank Reynolds. And the show, colleagues and bosses say, has shifted to reflect Muir’s restless pace, love of storytelling and penchant for on-site reporting.

“He’s the epitome of what a modern anchor needs to be,” says James Goldston, president of ABC News, who appointed Muir to the job. “He’s happy shooting on his little camera or cellphone.”

The Syracuse native was clearly groomed for the job, anchoring on weekends for nearly three years and racking up frequent-flier miles with reporting assignments around the globe. But his appointment also speaks volumes about ABC bosses’ desire to reinvigorate the program, attract younger viewers and increase its audience through social media and compelling video — an approach that may appeal to fast-churn audiences but alarm traditionalists.

“He was a natural choice,” Goldston says. “He’s been preparing for this a long time. It wasn’t a difficult decision.”

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Source: USA Today |  Roger Yu