Originally created 01/19/99

Gibson, Sawyer take 'GMA' reins



NEW YORK -- "Hi, I'm Diane Sawyer from Louisville, Ky. -- the new kid on the block."

"And I'm Charles Gibson, originally from Evanston, Ill. I hope you remember the old kid on the block."

With that chipper exchange, these old-new anchors for "Good Morning America" today began a campaign to infuse much-needed life into ABC's ailing wakeup show.

There were interviews during the two hours with former presidential aspirant Bob Dole and Dan Reeves, head coach of the Super Bowl-bound Atlanta Falcons. But the novel sight was the interviewers.

Of course, Sawyer, not exactly a new kid in this day-part, had the same job at CBS in the early 1980s. There she competed with Charles Gibson, who had been on "GMA" until last May.

This morning, Gibson called his return "an unexpected honor, I must tell you. A few weeks ago, you'd have knocked me over with a feather if you'd told me we were going to be here."

What wasn't a surprise: Triage was desperately needed for the failing "GMA," especially after one recent week when CBS' "This Morning" slipped past to claim second place for the first time ... since Sawyer was an anchor.

"So how was it, old kid, getting up in the morning?" Sawyer asked Gibson.

"That alarm clock was a familiar sound this morning," he replied. "I didn't actually throw a pillow at it, but I strongly considered it."

"Same at my house," Sawyer said. "I got up all right, but it was not pretty, let me tell you that."

Just how long they'll be getting up before the sun remains unclear, but their presence in "GMA's" make-believe living room is meant to send a message that ABC is serious about getting the broadcast back in the running.

In recent years, it might more aptly have been titled, "Good Morning ... Anybody?" Its glory days ended in 1995 as NBC's "Today" gained steam and became the apparently unbeatable front-runner.

Meanwhile, "GMA" grew increasingly anemic. Longtime co-anchor Joan Lunden left in 1997, and replacement Lisa McRee and Gibson successor Kevin Newman did nothing to help the show's drawing power.

Last summer, ABC News president David Westin said fixing the show was his division's most pressing need, but insisted "we have (an anchor) team in place ... that can do the job."

Now those co-anchors are gone -- reassigned to other ABC News duties.

This morning, Gibson took a moment to thank the ousted pair. "Nobody has been more helpful to us as we begin the transition ... than they have."

"And we love and admire them both so much," Sawyer added.