Stephanopoulos to anchor This Week
Former Clinton aide defends his partisan roots; ABC looks for a Sunday-morning boost
By Dan Trigoboff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/23/2002 8:00:00 PM
Back in his White House days, George Stephanopoulos recalls, Clinton aides would start thinking about the Sunday talk-show circuit around Wednesday. Now, he says, he'll be thinking about it all week.
ABC News last week made its long-expected appointment of former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos as anchor of the ABC News Sunday-morning program This Week, replacing co-anchors Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts in September.
The political-roundtable show needs a boost. Once competitive with NBC's Meet the Press, This Week has settled in at a pretty distant second place, occasionally ceding that spot to CBS's Face the Nation.Meet the Press averages more than 4.5 million viewers, This Week about 3.2 million and Face the Nation just over 3 million.
"In his more than five years at ABC News covering national and international stories," ABC News President David Westin said in a statement, "George has demonstrated a keen understanding of the issues and superb ability to communicate to an audience." Criticism of Stephanopoulos has centered on his career in Democratic politics, not journalism.
Stephanopoulos acknowledged that "I haven't spent a lifetime in journalism, but I have spent my professional life dealing with the issues and policies that the Sunday shows are all about. And I think I've built a pretty solid body of work in an, admittedly, short time as a journalist."
Moreover, he said he has proved that he has the ability and the will to ask tough questions, regardless of the subject's politics. But some conservative commentators jabbed at the ABC announcement.
Donaldson will now report and substitute as Nightline anchor, as well as host his daily radio and Internet shows. Roberts continues with ABC News as a commentator, with George Will.
Veteran producer Jon Banner, most recently senior producer for World News Tonight, was named executive producer of This Week . Banner said the shift in personnel "gives us an opportunity to make some changes, to experiment and make the broadcast a little bit different."
Roundtable discussions will continue, with an added permanent panelist and a rotating one. Banner would like to take the show on location in the future, depending on where the news is.
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