Tuesday, July 10, 2018

World News Tonight @ 40

July 10th is the 40th anniversary of the first World News Tonight on ABC.

I can yammer on for days on the genius of ABC News president Roone Arledge. He couldn't attract a big star like Rather or Brokaw to ABC, so he went with three anchors. Arledge had to do something different. He was left with the smoldering rubble of the ABC EVening News with Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters.

He didn't want Barbara Walters to anchor, even though her contract specified it. Arledge got around it by saying his new broadcast wouldn't have anchors. It would have desks-- a national desk with Frank Reynolds in Washington, a domestic desk with Max Robinson in Chicago, and a foreign desk with Peter Jennings in London.

Critics hated the new World News Tonight. It was unusual for its time-- a lot of bouncing around, faster paced than NBC and CBS. I get that part. What the critics didn't notice was the better story telling, the increased use of graphics to help the presentation. It took a while, but ABC was catching up on Cronkite, and CBS noticed.

The three desk really didn't last all that long. Max Robinson left and returned to local TV. Frank Reynolds died. Peter Jennings returned to the United States and became sole anchor.

World News Tonight revolutionized TV news. Happy 40.