All that Katie Couric talk reminded me I forgot to post this story.Critic's NotebookLow-key Gibson gets high marks and top ratings
By Melanie McFarland Seattle Post-Intelligencer
When ABC's Charles Gibson anchors "World News" from Seattle on Thursday and Friday, he'll do so from a place somewhat unusual for the network.
For many a season, "World News" was the perennial second-place holder, stuck behind "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" but a healthy distance ahead of "CBS Evening News."
Over the past few weeks, beneath the buzz about Katie Couric's unpopularity and the distressingly low ratings of her CBS newscast, Gibson and "World News" subtly achieved a coup worth crowing about.
The newscast loosened NBC's stranglehold on first place, winning nine of the past 13 weeks. Last week, "World News With Charles Gibson" pulled ahead by the widest margin since Peter Jennings' death in August 2005. Making the win more significant is its occurrence during May sweeps. (The official numbers: ABC, an average of 8.1 million viewers; NBC, 7.5 million; CBS, 6.1 million.)
Coincidentally, this happened during the week Time magazine released its current list of 100 Most Influential People, which includes NBC's Williams.
Time may have missed it, but many others are starting to notice Gibson's powerful draw. A recent Gallup Poll indicated that 62 percent of TV viewers saw Gibson in a positive light, ahead of Williams' 59 percent. He also has the lowest negative rating -- 16 percent. (Couric's 29 percent negative rating has been widely reported lately.)
His reaction to all this?
"I only know that we've won a few weeks," Gibson said during a phone call from his New York office. "More people say hello to me in the hallway, so I guess that's a good sign."
Gibson, 64, has been in this business long enough to know that humility and understatement serve an anchor far better than bluster. Those qualities have stood him well in an evening-news race that only can be described as tumultuous.
Last spring, while the industry was atwitter over the rumor that former "Today" co-host Couric would take over CBS's evening newscast, "Good Morning America" rival Gibson quietly prepared to slide into the "World News" chair with little fanfare.
"We intentionally started under the radar," he recalled. "(My bosses) said, 'When do you want to start?' I said, 'I want to start on Memorial Day.' They said, 'You mean Tuesday?' I said, 'No, Memorial Day.' "
Gibson also refuses to join the chorus of Couric's detractors, only describing the hoopla over her ascension at CBS as "curious."
"I understood why they did it because as I always say, I've been a huge admirer of Katie's. She beat the stuffing out of me for years. ... But this is not like the circus opening in town, or even the rollout of a new entertainment show, where you try to grab people. These things are marathons, not sprints."
ABC was having a tough time of it before Gibson made the move from morning to evening. Longtime anchor Jennings succumbed to cancer the previous summer. ABC replaced him with co-anchors Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas; weeks after their official start, Woodruff suffered critical injuries in Iraq and Vargas announced she was pregnant and was stepping down. Gibson joked, "They looked around and I was the guy over there standing next to the candy machine who was still around. And they said, 'You're it.' "
To hear him tell the story, sitting behind the "World News" desk is of far less importance than the work being done by the newsroom as a whole. He is correct; since his arrival ABC News has enjoyed a good run. Martha Raddatz is doing a respectable job as the network's White House correspondent. Brian Ross' investigations into Capitol Hill led to ABC's breaking the Mark Foley scandal. Woodruff returned with a widely acclaimed book he co-wrote with his wife about traumatic brain injury.
Nearing his first anniversary anchoring "World News," Gibson deserves credit for imbuing the newscast with a renewed sense of approachability. Where the late Jennings became known for his cool demeanor, Gibson's appeal is in his warmth. When tested by crises such as the recent coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre, he conveys a sense of evenness and humanity while the audience's emotions spike.
It's also clear that underneath the newsman's pressed suit is the curiosity of an average person. During his Seattle visit he plans to take a look at Starbucks.
Most newscasters would examine our tech industry or Boeing during such a visit. Gibson is interested in our culture of coffee.
It sounds a little, well, banal. Seattle and coffee are an old cliché of a couple.
Gibson has a different take. He sees something in the fact that Starbucks can have stands in grocery stores a few doors down from a cafe, or shops across the street from each other.
"In this day and age, when we live in a Wal-Mart society where people need to save money on things, how they get people to pay a premium for a basic product in life has always fascinated me The instances of that happening have actually been relatively few in my lifetime," he said. "I'm just fascinated by the psychology of the place. ... I guess we are creatures who can be analyzed to the point that they figure out how to make a buck off us, and know they're going to."
Recently, though, ABC News has taken its licks for experimenting with single sponsorship. For example, CVS/Pharmacy shouldered the cost for the April 23 edition of "World News." That was slightly less controversial than earlier newscasts, sponsored solely by Pfizer and featuring a commercial announcing the reintroduction of Celebrex advertising.
Pfizer stopped advertising for the anti-inflammatory prescription drug because of a link to cardiovascular conditions.
"I know (Dr.) Sidney Wolfe (the director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group) and his group got on us," Gibson said. ... "(But) I'm not tied up with the sponsors, don't want to be tied up with the sponsors, don't endorse the sponsors."
However, Gibson does love the benefits "World News" has gained from sole sponsorship and expects to see more of it in the future.
"From our standpoint, in terms of how much news you can get in a half hour, we can get a heckuva lot more in if we've got four or five minutes of extra program time," he said.
Any chance of seeing Gibson sip a venti caramel Frappucino during a newscast?
"Oh, gosh, no, no, no, no," he blurted. "The firewall between the news division and the sponsors is very thick."http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/printe...5007_tv10.html