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Diane Sawyer Leaving ‘ABC World News;’ David Muir Takes Over as Anchor and Managing Editor

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Breaking: ABC’s Diane Sawyer is stepping down from anchoring “World News” and will focus on primetime specials, big interviews, and enterprise reporting for the network. David Muir, who has been sole anchor of the “World News” weekend editions since 2011, will take over as anchor and managing editor of the flagship broadcast on September 2. Muir, 40, will continue to co-anchor “20/20″ with Elizabeth Vargas.

Also announced today, “Good Morning America” co-host and “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos takes on the new role of chief anchor of ABC News. He’ll lead special reports, breaking news and election night coverage for the network as well as continuing with “GMA” and “This Week.”

Insiders tell us Sawyer began talking with former ABC News president Ben Sherwood late last year about a transition from the anchor desk. With the retirement of Barbara Walters last month, Sawyer will now take on some of the specials and interviews that for years were part of Walters’ stock in trade.

Under Sawyer, “World News” has been gaining on “NBC Nightly News.” The broadcast won the May sweeps in the A25-54 demo for the first time in more than 6 years. Sawyer, who began anchoring “World News” in December 2009, is the second woman to solo anchor a network nightly newscast, following Katie Couric‘s 2006-2011 run at “CBS Evening News.” “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” maintains a one million viewer lead most nights on “World News” and hasn’t lost a week among total viewers in nearly 5 years.

The Sawyer, Muir and Stephanopoulos news is at the top of the agenda of ABC News president James Goldston‘s morning editorial meeting. We’ll have details if/when we get them this morning. A replacement for Muir on the weekend newscasts will come at a later date.

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