George Stephanopoulos, the popular host of ABC’s Sunday Morning “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” show, and a former Clinton aide who seamlessly made the transition to big time television due to his dogged preparation on issues and broadcasting skills, is poised to become the new anchor of ABC New’s morning ratings powerhouse Good Morning America, The Politico reports. Is there another more quintessential fulfillment of the 21st century American media dream?
When Stephanopoulous first joined ABC News in 1997 as a news analyst for ‘This Week” he was just another slick talking political head — a job that many politicians, experts, analysts and downright political hacks do 24/7 on broadcast TV, cable and the radio these days. But like NBC’s great — and greatly missed — late Tim Russert, who also came from a political operative background, Stephanopoulos morphed into a reliable, must-watch (on TV) and must read (on the ABC website) brand name, easily moving into the bigtime political journalism world. The former Clinton administration senior adviser to the president for policy and strategy began anchoring “This Week” in 2002 and became the network’s Chief Washington Correspondent three years later — all jobs where he picked up the ball and ran with it.
Although his job titles aren’t the same set-up as Russert’s at NBC, Stephanopoulous could be counted on as Russert was to supply supremely-well sourced information if he told viewers he had it from a source, ask guests and officials questions in a way that showed he had done his extensive preparation, and add a genuine sense of “gravitas” to the network’s political analysis and coverage. In short, in his own low key way, Stephanopoulous comes across the tube with his own brand of charisma.
When networks lose a Walter Cronkite (CBS), David Brinkley (NBC/ABC), Tim Russert (NBC), or Peter Jennings (ABC) it sometimes take years until a new figure emerges to have the same kind of aura that separates a major trusted network or news personality from a solid professional anchor or reporter. And even then the replacement may not quite fit the bill.
The Politico reports:
ABC News will announce George Stephanopoulos as an anchor of “Good Morning America,” to start as soon as Monday, industry sources tell POLITICO. The announcement is planned for Thursday.
Stephanopoulos, 48, joins Robin Roberts at the anchor desk of the lucrative morning show. He will succeed Diane Sawyer, who has her last day on the show Friday and begins Dec. 21 as anchor of “World News.”
Stephanopoulos may keep his Sunday show, “This Week,” for a transition period. The network brass don’t want to disrupt that show, which is doing well. Eventually, a new host would be named.
The Manhattan-bound Stephanopoulos also was ABC’s chief Washington correspondent. From Capitol Hill to presidential politics to the White House to network news, Stephanopoulos has repeatedly triumphed in hostile environments through charm and dogged preparation, and has executed a remarkable series of seamless reinventions.
JuJu Chang will succeed Chris Cuomo as the “GMA” news anchor.
The site TV Newser has covered ABC overtures to Stephanopoulos for this job in great detail, including testing him with prospective co-anchors:
Juju Chang has been offered the job of news anchor for “Good Morning America,” TVNewser has learned from multiple sources.
Chang, who joined ABC News in 1991, has been working on several projects for ABC News magazines, ABCNews.com and has been filling in on “Good Morning America Weekend.”
Insiders tell us Chang did not campaign for the job — she and her husband, former NBC News president Neal Shapiro, have three young sons — but rather that executives looked at a compilation of the work she’d been doing for the network, then brought her in for a test with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos last week.
“They felt that she had a certain chemistry with George and Robin,” says an insider. “In the end it basically came down to chemistry.”
Stephanopoulos is widely expected to be named co-anchor of the show, with an official announcement coming later this week. Diane Sawyer’s last day on the show is Friday.
ABC’s decision will likely prove to be a sound one At 48, barring some unexpected event, the network can expect him to be around for a while. Stephanopoulos has never taken a job where he didn’t make a big splash — so expect there to be notable changes once he formally replaces the venerable Sawyer, who also moved from the political world to the broadcast world to become one of the Disney-owned network’s mega-news personalities as well.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.