By DAVID BAUDER
NEW YORK -- Charles Gibson, who provided a steadying hand to a World News broadcast reeling from tragedy, will retire at the end of the year, and ABC News appointed Diane Sawyer on Wednesday to replace him in January.
Gibson, 66, said he had been planning to retire at the end of 2007 but that events compelled him to stay. He was named anchor following the death of Peter Jennings and the wartime injury of Bob Woodruff in 2006. He's been at ABC News for 35 years and said he planned to continue as an occasional contributor.
Sawyer's elevation means that, with Katie Couric at CBS, two of the three leading anchors for the broadcast networks will be women.
Gibson's comforting presence made him an instant ratings hit at World News when the other networks had much younger anchors. But NBC's Brian Williams eventually passed him by and has been leading in the ratings for the past year, with World News a solid second.
"The program is now operating at a very accelerated, but steady, cruising speed and I think it is an opportune time for a transition -- both for the broadcast and for me," Gibson said in an e-mail to fellow ABC News staffers. "Life is dynamic; it is not static."
Sawyer was the obvious choice for a successor, said ABC News President David Westin. The 63-year-old newswoman has a lengthy resume that includes a stint on 60 Minutes and competing with Barbara Walters for big news interviews in the 1990s. She's also done several documentaries.
Yet her departure leaves a hole at ABC's Good Morning America, of which she was the centerpiece. ABC had no immediate announcement on what would happen on that show, though in-house candidates such as Bill Weir and Chris Cuomo would be prospects to take a larger role.
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