It wasn't the way Charles Gibson wanted to get the job.
While approaching his new role as permanent weeknight anchor of "ABC World News Tonight" with determination, he would prefer that tragedy hadn't paved the way. Longtime anchorman Peter Jennings died last year from lung cancer, then at the start of this year, Bob Woodruff was seriously injured in an Iraq explosion shortly after being appointed to co-anchor the program with Elizabeth Vargas.
"Yes, I got here through a convoluted process," allows "Good Morning America" veteran Gibson, "because bad things happened to good people or, in Elizabeth's case, because a good thing (pregnancy) happened to a good person. It's a strange course of events that got me here; at the same time, I love this program. I probably have consumed more of 'World News Tonight' than anyone ever, so my comfort with it is very great. However you get here, it's good to be here."
Although he substitute anchored "World News Tonight" many times, Gibson admits he's still adjusting to being deemed the final judge on many decisions. Citing his Quaker background that involves group consensus, he says, "I sort of sit there and think we've reached a sense of the meeting, then people turn to me and say, 'OK, what are we going to do?' When was I supposed to decide? I find that somewhat antithetical for me, so it's been a bit of a change in that regard."
Indeed, Gibson maintains he didn't ask for the managing editor title that Brian Williams has on "NBC Nightly News" and that Katie Couric also will have when she begins anchoring "CBS Evening News" in September. "I wouldn't particularly want it," Gibson adds. "I've always looked at this as a very collegial process, but I guess you're the more equal of equals when you have this job. I haven't fully acclimated to that yet."
Nor has Gibson settled in with the news changes at all of the "big three" networks: "You began to think that Tom [Brokaw, at NBC] and Dan [Rather, at CBS] and Peter were parts of the woodwork, just never going to move. Sort of by accidents of timing, the shows all turned over within a very short period of time.
"That allows some people to write that the whole network news business is changing, but I think you'll find in the long run that it isn't. These still are the signature broadcasts of each of the news divisions, and the end product for which most of their people are working."
Now exclusive to "World News Tonight" after leaving "Good Morning America" at the end of June, Gibson was approached by ABC News chief David Westin about assuming the job after Jennings' death, but talks broke down and Vargas and Woodruff got the nod.
"This is not something I ever seriously entertained," Gibson stresses. "In my mind, Peter was going to be the anchor of the evening news broadcast for the completion of my span at ABC. Then, what happened, happened and all of a sudden, we were back in negotiations."
Being the permanent keeper of the flame gives Gibson a much different feeling. "I always used to tell Peter that sitting in for him was like being a grandparent. You could have great fun with the kid, but you always knew you were going to give it back. All of a sudden, I'm the parent. I went back a generation somehow, and I can't give it back."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times