Amanpour takes over ABC's This Week

After George Stephanopoulos left the Sunday morning talk show This Week to co-host Good Morning America, most people figured that the Sunday gig would go to one of ABC’s political reporters, perhaps Jake Tapper or Nightline’s Terry Moran.  Instead, ABC chose Christiane Amanpour from CNN’s foreign-service reporting, an odd choice for a market most interested in domestic politics:

Christiane Amanpour has been named the new anchor of “This Week,” ABC News President David Westin announced today.

“I am delighted to announce that Christiane Amanpour will join ABC News as the new anchor of “This Week,” Westin said in an e-mail to the ABC News staff. “A highly respected journalist recognized around the world for her reporting, she brings to her new position a wealth of experience and knowledge, as well as a deep commitment to bringing news of the world to the American people.”

Westin said Amanpour will appear on other ABC News programs and platforms to provide international analysis on the issues of the day, as well as anchor primetime documentaries on international subjects for the network.

Lisa de Moraes calls critics of the move “Negative Nancys”:

Amanpour, one of the country’s most respected international correspondents, will also appear on other ABC News programs and platforms to provide international analysis of the important issues of the day, ABC News said in Thursday’s announcement. She will anchor primetime documentaries on international subjects for ABC. She starts in August. “This Week” will continue to be broadcast from the Newseum in Washington.

Various Negative Nancys spent Thursday puzzling over what ABC News was thinking by hiring someone outside the box, with little knowledge of domestic politics, to anchor “This Week.” Amanpour, who grew up in Iran and Britain, the daughter of an Iranian father and a British mother, will be the first broadcast TV Sunday Beltway show anchor with a distinctly non-American accent, they said.

Nonsense.  Her accent has nothing to do with the criticism of hiring a reporter whose entire work has been focused on covering the foreign desk to a position that focuses on domestic politics.  The Sunday talk show audience usually watches to get a longer-view perspective on American politics, moderated by someone with credibility in that arena.  That’s why the late Tim Russert got the hosting duties for Meet the Press and Bob Schieffer handles it for CBS on Face the Nation.

Moreover, people like Russert and Schieffer built a reputation for fairness and even-handedness prior to assuming the duties of interviewer/moderator.  As this confrontation with Marc Thiessen on CNN in January showed, Amanpour has a well-earned reputation as a journalistic activist, not someone who works objectively.  In that same interview, she showed a remarkable lack of preparation and background on the subject which she was covering.

Instead of getting a seasoned political reporter who had built a reputation for objectivity, or at least fairness, for this role, ABC went outside of its house to snag someone who barely knows the main subject matter in which their audience is interested.  That doesn’t mean that Amanpour can’t grow into the role, of course; she may wind up doing very well indeed.  It does make her an odd choice for the job now, however, especially since most Americans put domestic issues like the economy and deficits high up on the agenda — the kind of issues Amanpour hasn’t covered.

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