When we got word this morning that Charlie Gibson would be stepping down from “World News” and retire from ABC, we checked the TVNewser archives. Turns out, less than three months ago — in a June interview with TVNewser — ABC News president David Westin expressed a “long-term commitment to World News with Charles Gibson“:
TVNewser: The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric has hit a ratings low point. Of the three networks’ evening newscasts, only Nightly News’ viewership is up [year-to-date vs. last year-to-date]. How do you view this, and do you have a long-term commitment to World News with Charles Gibson?
Westin: We certainly have a long-term commitment to World News with Charles Gibson — there shouldn’t be any question in anybody’s mind about that.
…We are fortunate to have a lot of people who continue to watch [the show]. It’s not as many people as we’d like to have, and we need to get more. I regard this much more as a game of golf, rather than tennis. We’re playing the course, rather than playing the opposition.
But I don’t take any pleasure at all in seeing any competitor do badly. As I said, this is golf — how many people are watching us, and how can we get more people to watch us? That’s what I’m focused on.
> Update: Westin tells The Washington Post‘s Howard Kurtz that Gibson came to him about two months ago to discuss retirement. “Westin,” Kurtz writes, “wanted Gibson to stay on and said they should continue discussing the matter over the summer”, with Gibson telling Westin August 25 of his decision. “We’ve reached the point,” Westin recalls saying to Gibson, “where I have to respect your wishes.”
Similarly, in an interview with the New York Times, Westin says he tried to change Gibson’s mind about retiring and that the anchor’s ultimate decision “was not a result I wanted.” Diane Sawyer — whom the Times reports recently signed a new contract with ABC — accepted the World News job on Tuesday night, according to Westin.