The game of musical anchormen (and women) that has been in play since NBC's Tom Brokaw retired in 2004, continued for a few more rounds yesterday at CBS, ABC and cable channel CNN.
John Roberts, longtime White House correspondent and weekend anchor, is leaving CBS to join CNN as a senior national correspondent. Roberts, a 14-year veteran of CBS who had been considered heir apparent to Dan Rather as anchor of CBS Evening News, will start his new job at CNN Feb. 20. Rather was forced to resign in March.
Meanwhile ABC News announced yesterday that Good Morning America co-anchors Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson will alternate as co-anchors with Elizabeth Vargas on ABC World News Tonight until Bob Woodruff, who was seriously wounded while reporting in Iraq, returns. The team of Vargas and Woodruff was launched on Jan. 3 after the death from lung cancer of long-time World News Tonight anchorman Peter Jennings. Gibson, 62, was passed over in favor of the 44-year-old Woodruff.
"Charlie and Diane will be filling in - in Bob's seat - keeping that seat warm until Bob can return," Jeffrey Schneider, vice president of ABC News, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
"Obviously, you know, you're asking people who already do a lot of work to do more work," Schneider added in response to a question as to how the nightly news duties might affect their involvement in the morning show.
In an e-mail to staffers later in the day, ABC News President David Westin said: "We're in a process of working out a schedule that can work for everyone given their simultaneous commitment to Good Morning America."
While Westin also spoke of Woodruff's "return," that is neither imminent nor a certainty. The anchor, who suffered severe head, face and upper body injuries when a roadside bomb exploded, now is being treated at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
For his part, Roberts, tried to make his departure from CBS seem as amicable as possible. Sean McManus, who recently was named CBS News president, has made it clear that he would court NBC Today anchor Katie Couric when she became available in May when her contract is up.
"It became apparent to me through the month of December - and reinforced in January - that they were going to go in a different direction," the 49-year-old Roberts said in a telephone interview. "I was coming to the end of my contract, and wondering what should come next - and it became pretty clear to me that it was time to make a change."
"John has been a tremendous asset to CBS News. He had a great opportunity at CNN, where I know he'll do great work and be a worthy competitor," McManus said in a statement e-mailed to The Sun.