August 9, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Swaziland: Journalism: Television: New York Daily News: Will Chris Matthews fill Peter's chair?

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Swaziland: Special Report: RPCV Journalist Chris Matthews: Chris Matthews: Archived Stories: August 9, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Swaziland: Journalism: Television: New York Daily News: Will Chris Matthews fill Peter's chair?

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Will Chris Matthews fill Peter's chair?

Will Chris Matthews fill Peter's chair?

"They need to look at the successful people on cable," said Paul Levinson, chairman of Media Studies at Fordham University. "They should think about someone like Chris Matthews on [MSNBC] or Shepard Smith on Fox News. In other words, people who you don't now think of as being [broadcast] anchors." Television Journalist Chris Matthews served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland in the 1960's.

Will Chris Matthews fill Peter's chair?

Who'll fill Peter's chair?


The death of Peter Jennings on Sunday put ABC News management in the delicate position of having to choose a replacement for the revered anchor.

The leading candidates for the "World News Tonight" anchor seat are Elizabeth Vargas, Charles Gibson and Bob Woodruff - all of whom filled in for Jennings after he revealed his battle with lung cancer in April.

"It's a quandary for [ABC]," said Joe Angotti, a 20-year veteran of NBC News who teaches journalism at Monmouth College in Illinois.

Gibson, who experts agree has seemed the most comfortable in Jennings' spot, has been keeping a grueling schedule as co-host with Diane Sawyer of "Good Morning America" and subbing on "World News Tonight."

"I think it's a real dilemma," said Angotti, referring to moving Gibson from "GMA" to "World News Tonight." "It would diminish one program to take a gamble on building up another program."

With Gibson and Sawyer on "GMA," the show has been nipping at the heels of NBC's top-rated "Today" show.

"It may be that ABC will decide [Gibson] is too important to 'Good Morning America' and that's where he should stay and that's the more important venue for ABC News because of the amount of money it makes," said Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center of the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard.

But with more and more viewers forgoing broadcast news for alternatives on cable and the Internet, some analysts suggest a dramatic change is what is needed to rejuvenate the networks.

"They need to look at the successful people on cable," said Paul Levinson, chairman of Media Studies at Fordham University. "They should think about someone like Chris Matthews on [MSNBC] or Shepard Smith on Fox News. In other words, people who you don't now think of as being [broadcast] anchors."

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said Gibson and Vargas will continue to anchor "World News Tonight" for the foreseeable future and the question of a permanent successor is premature.

"No one is even thinking about that question at this point," Schneider said. "It's something that we will address at a more appropriate time down the road."

But it must be addressed by the fall when viewers return after the summer slump, Angotti said.

Jennings, who was the solo anchor of "World News Tonight" for 22 years, was the last of the longtime broadcast anchors. NBC's Tom Brokaw put in 23 years before retiring last December; CBS' Dan Rather stepped down in March after 24 years anchoring the "CBS Evening News."

"The way these three anchors embodied television news is probably not going to be seen again," said Jones, adding that Gibson, Vargas or CNN's Aaron Brown all would be suitable candidates to assume the "World News Tonight" chair. "But they will not be the embodiment of ABC News the way Peter Jennings was."

Funeral services for Jennings are being kept private.

Originally published on August 9, 2005

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