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CORRECTED: ABC morning host to take over ‘World News Tonight’

May 23, 2006

Please read in fourth paragraph … Gibson, 63, … instead
of Gibson, 53, … (correcting age)

A corrected repetition follows:

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – ABC morning host Charles Gibson
will take over next week as anchor of the network’s flagship
newscast from Elizabeth Vargas, who is leaving the broadcast
for good as she nears maternity leave, the network said on
Tuesday.

The latest personnel shuffle at ABC News, coming months
after co-anchor Bob Woodruff was gravely wounded in Iraq, was
announced the week after ABC’s “World News Tonight” broadcast
slipped from its longtime No. 2 spot in the ratings to trail
the perennially third-ranked CBS “Evening News.”

It also comes as ABC’s “Good Morning America,” co-hosted by
Gibson, seemed poised to perhaps finally catch up with rival
NBC’s top-ranked “Today” show in the breakfast-hour ratings
race now that “Today” veteran Katie Couric is about to jump to
CBS News.

Gibson, 63, who joined ABC News in 1975, will continue to
co-anchor “Good Morning America” with Diane Sawyer and Robin
Roberts until June 30, when he will leave that show for good to
devote himself exclusively to “World News Tonight.”

ABC News President David Westin said Gibson’s move to
“World News Tonight” was driven by Vargas’ pregnancy and
Woodruff’s recovery from severe wounds inflicted by a roadside
bomb blast in Iraq on January 29.

ABC News had only weeks before that accident installed
Woodruff and Vargas together as the new two-anchor team at
“World News Tonight” to permanently take the place of the late
Peter Jennings, who died of lung cancer in August.

Vargas, 43, due to give birth this summer to her second
child, will make her last “World News Tonight” appearance on
Friday, and Gibson will step in to replace her Monday, ABC
said.

Westin said Gibson’s move “will give Bob Woodruff the
extended period that he needs to recover and return to the air
for ABC News.” But Woodruff’s return is still seen as
relatively distant, and network executives used phrases like
“long-term play” and “extended commitment” to describe Gibson’s
new “World News Tonight” assignment.

“This is not temporary by any means,” one network official
said on condition of anonymity.

Woodruff, who was wounded on assignment with a military
patrol near Baghdad, suffered injuries to his chest, neck, face
and head, and had remained under heavy sedation for weeks
during his initial recovery. He was discharged in March from a
military hospital outside Washington.

There are no plans for Vargas to return to the evening
newscast. A network spokesman said she would remain at the
prime-time news magazine “20/20,” where she has continued
serving as host all along, until she goes on maternity leave in
the coming weeks and will return to “20/20″ in the fall.


Source: reuters



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