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Overview for Diane Sawyer
Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer


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Also Known As: Lila Diane Sawyer Died:
Born: December 22, 1945 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Glasgow, Kentucky, USA Profession: Writer ... interviewer news anchor news correspondent assistant to Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixon's press secretary


One of the most celebrated and recognized figures in modern television news, Diane Sawyer was a television journalist and anchor whose tenacious work was often the highlight of such news programs as "60 Minutes" (CBS, 1968- ), "PrimeTime Live" (ABC, 1989- ), and "Good Morning America" (ABC, 1978). For many viewers and critics, Sawyer represented the model of modern American television journalism, able to handle hard-hitting interviews with world leaders like Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon and Nancy Reagan on one night, and gossip-heavy conversations with celebrities like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Mel Gibson on another. This versatility made her one of the most popular news figures on television for over two decades and helped to usher her into the inevitable position as the anchor for "ABC World News" (ABC, 1953- ), assuming the chair in 2010. Having helped propel the networkâ¿¿s nightly news show to rise in the ratings, Sawyer proved that she was indeed one of journalismâ¿¿s most popular and respected figures.

Born Dec. 22, 1945 in Glasgow, KY, Lila Diane Sawyer was the daughter of judge Erbon Powers "Tom" Sawyer and his wife Jean Dunagan, an elementary schoolteacher. Shortly after her birth, Sawyer's family relocated to Louisville, where her father was the Jefferson County Judge/Executive before dying in a car accident in 1969. Sawyer's childhood was a well-rounded one; she was both studious and outgoing; even winning the 1963 "America's Junior Miss" competition as the representative from Kentucky. But the written word proved to be her abiding passion; she earned a degree in English from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and briefly attended law school at the University of Kentucky before settling on a career in broadcast journalism.

She began her work in that field as a reporter for WLKY in Louisville; in 1970, she left television to work for then-President Richard Nixon at the behest of White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler. Sawyer stayed with the White House after Nixon's resignation in 1974 to aid in the transition to Gerald Ford's presidency, then joined Nixon again in California to help him pen his memoirs and prepare for his legendary interviews with journalist David Frost in 1977. For years after her association with Nixon, Sawyer was one of several individuals considered to be the true identity of the whistleblower known as "Deep Throat." Sawyer was even named as such by Rabbi Baruch Korff, a close and personal confidante of the ex-president. She subsequently requested and was granted a public denial by lead investigating reporter on Watergate, Bob Woodward.

In 1978, Sawyer returned to broadcasting as a Washington bureau reporter for CBS, eventually moving behind the anchor desk for "The CBS Early Morning News" (CBS, 1982- ) with Bill Kurtis. Two years later, she would move to primetime as the first female reporter on the venerable "60 Minutes." Her reporting for CBS established Sawyer as a dogged journalist who tackled challenging subjects and interviews with tenacity and skill. Among the stories that helped to cement Sawyer's reputation in the news business were her coverage of the Three Mile Island controversy and interviews with major political and world figures, including President and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton.

After five years on the "60 Minutes" team, Sawyer signed a lucrative contract with ABC to co-anchor the news magazine "PrimeTime Live," where she remained for over a decade before adding co-anchor duties on "20/20" (ABC, 1978- ) to her growing résumé. Both shows required Sawyer to embrace a more tabloid style of interview; though she continued to cover harder material like interviews with Fidel Castro and Panamanian dictator Manuel Noreiga, she raised eyebrows with her "juicy" chats with such headline-grabbing subjects as Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley après their highly questionable wedding, Marla Maples, Tonya Harding, and a deeply confused and apparently medicated Whitney Houston. Even established political figures like Russian president Boris Yeltsin were treated with this lightweight approach, much to the chagrin of Sawyer's admirers. But Sawyer's presence lent credibility to both programs, which in turn translated into substantial ratings for the network. Furthermore, her photogenic qualities and empathetic tone endeared her to viewers, which helped to make Sawyer a celebrity on par with her interview subjects. In some cases, she was the only journalist invited to major events ⿿ whether it was a Kennedy funeral or an exclusive Hollywood party ⿿ by nature of her friendship with the rich and powerful and, no doubt, her marriage to the well respected film director, Mike Nichols. By the turn of the new millennium, she was among the most widely recognized news figures on American television.

In 1999, Sawyer returned to the morning news format as the temporary co-anchor for "Good Morning America." The show, which had struggled in the ratings for years, was on the verge of cancellation before the network brokered for Sawyer to join returning anchor Charles Gibson in a last-ditch attempt to save the show. The move proved uncommonly successful; within a few years, the broadcast was neck and neck with its chief ratings rival, "Today" (NBC, 1952- ). Her tenure on the series came to an end in September 2009 when it was announced that she would replace Gibson as the anchor of "ABC World News" in January 2010. The move not only re-established Sawyer's prominence as one of the leading television news figures, but also tilted the balance of women's presence on major news programs; now two of the three network newscasts were hosted by women for a time, with the second being Katie Couric on "The CBS Evening News" (CBS, 1963- ) before she stepped down as anchor amidst struggling ratings.

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