February 1, 2006

CBS loses top reporter, ABC replaces Woodruff

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - CBS lost its longtime White House
reporter to CNN on Wednesday as rival ABC tapped its morning
news hosts to fill in for World News Tonight co-anchor Bob
Woodruff while he recovers from wounds suffered in a bomb blast
in Iraq.

Both developments came as CBS and ABC, a unit of Walt
Disney Co., labor to reshape their news divisions following the
departure of mainstays Dan Rather and Peter Jennings from their
respective flagship newscasts.

Rather, 74, stepped down as CBS Evening News anchor in
March 2005, six months after coming under fire for a botched
report questioning the military record of U.S. President George
W. Bush. ABC's Jennings died of cancer in August at age 67.

CBS chief White House correspondent John Roberts, 49,
considered a front-runner to replace Rather but passed over for
the job, is leaving the network later this month after 14 years
to join CNN, the cable news outlet said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, ABC News said its leading breakfast-hour
personalities, "Good Morning America" co-hosts Diane Sawyer and
Charles Gibson, will take turns filling in as World News
co-anchor with Elizabeth Vargas until Woodruff can return.

ABC News debuted its new two-anchor World News format on
January 3 with Woodruff and Vargas taking the place of
Jennings. The network also introduced a new daily Internet
Webcast and live-to-the West Coast updates of its evening news

But the remake was derailed on Sunday when Woodruff and his
cameraman, Doug Vogt, were badly wounded by a roadside bomb
while traveling in an Iraqi military vehicle.


After being treated at U.S. medical facilities in Iraq and
Germany, both men returned to the United States on Tuesday and
were admitted to National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda,
Maryland, outside the nation's capital, for further care.

Woodruff, 44, the more seriously hurt of the two with head
and facial wounds and injuries to his chest and shoulder,
"continues to make excellent progress" in his recovery, ABC
News President David Westin said in a statement.

Woodruff's older brother, David, told ABC News on Tuesday
that his sibling, who has been heavily sedated, moved his arms
and legs and tried to open his eyes when moved from a stretcher
to his bed at Bethesda, a sign that encouraged doctors.

"We are, frankly, saying he's going to be back (at work)
because that's what he loves," David Woodruff said.

In the meantime, ABC said Gibson and Sawyer would co-host
World News Tonight with Vargas and help with the added demands
of the new West Coast updates and daily Webcasts. Gibson and
Sawyer also will remain in place at "Good Morning America."

Separately, Roberts, a Toronto native who began his CBS
tenure in 1992 as co-anchor of its morning news program, will
begin his new job as CNN senior national correspondent on
February 20, the Time Warner Inc.-owned cable network said.

His move to CNN comes after a stint of more than six years
as chief White House correspondent for CBS News.

Roberts was widely seen as a leading candidate to take over
the Evening News anchor chair from Rather. Instead, veteran
colleague Bob Schieffer, 68, was given the job while CBS News
sought a permanent successor, including efforts to court Katie
Couric, co-host of rival NBC's top-rated morning show "Today."

Two weeks ago, newly installed CBS News President Sean
McManus said Roberts possessed the skills but lacked the
stature to assume the mantle of Evening News anchor.

Ratings for CBS Evening News, the third-ranked nightly
network newscast, have improved under Schieffer, but McManus
has said Schieffer was not interested in keeping the job on a
long-term basis. There was no immediate word from CBS News on
who would replace Roberts at the White House.