ABC News: Sawyer to replace retiring Gibson

Come January, there'll be yet another new news anchor at ABC's "World News."

ABC News announced this morning that Charles Gibson, its main news anchor since May 2006, plans to retire, and that Diane Sawyer will replace him in January.

"Diane Sawyer is the right person to succeed Charlie and build on what he has accomplished," ABC News president David Westin said in a statement. "She has an outstanding and varied career in television journalism, beginning with her role as a State Department correspondent and continuing at '60 Minutes,' 'Primetime Live,' and most recently 'Good Morning America.'"

That Sawyer will become the second woman to be named solo anchor of a network newscast -- CBS' Katie Couric being the first -- probably won't attract as much attention as the fact that barring any further developments, two of the Big Three anchors will be women.

 In an e-mail to ABC staffers, Westin wrote:

"Charlie and I have been talking about his decision for several weeks, and he has persuaded me that this is both what he wants and what is best for him. I respect his decision, just as I respect the enormous contribution he has made to ABC News through the years.

"Most recently, he stepped in to lead World News after a difficult and turbulent time -- both for the broadcast and for ABC News over all. We suffered from the loss of Peter [Jennings] and then the severe injuries to Bob [Woodruff]. Charlie came to the fore to keep us on the path of doing the first rate journalism that had distinguished 'World News' for many years. We owe him much for the leadership he gave us when we needed it most.

"Since then, Charlie has covered all the major events with the substance and grace that we all expect from him. Most importantly, he headed our coverage during a presidential election unlike any other. Now, having accomplished so much in so many different parts of ABC News, Charlie has decided it is time for him to step down. I have told him that he has an open door to continue to work with ABC News, but he's asked for a bit of time before he comes back to us."