Diane Sawyer, Please Stop Kicking Your Chair

So Charlie Gibson gets to leave "Good Morning America" first. How did that happen? That's one of many unanswered questions in ABC's announcement that Gibson would take over as solo anchor of "World News Tonight" in June. The main one concerns Gibson's co-anchor on GMA, Diane Sawyer, who can't be too pleased about going into battle with Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer next month without a male presence beside her. How did she ever approve this decision? So far there's no evidence that she did. This isn't good. I'm nervous.

When it was reported in March that Diane Sawyer wanted the anchor job, ABC News didn't bother to deny it the way they had in the past. It's hard to deny something when it's true. But then again, did Sawyer really want to be the anchor? Or did she just want to be asked? That question dominates most discussions of Sawyer's recent career moves, of which there have been none. She has stayed at GMA for seven years and at 60 years old, has not outwardly admitted to wanting anything else. But it's impossible to imagine her wanting to stay at GMA very long after Gibson leaves in June. "I predict she'll walk by summer," one television-news insider who knows Sawyer well told me recently, sounding quite definitive about it, I noticed.

But walk where? With Couric in place at CBS and Gibson at ABC, Sawyer has no place to go. I used to think it was checkmate, but now it feels more embarrassing, like whatever they call it when you lose at checkers. ABC had to give the show to Gibson. It was the only move that gave the network a real chance to improve its ratings; Couric already took the attention (like the cover of Newsweek) for being the first woman anchor. Anyway, Sawyer's anchoring skills aren't considered as sharp as Gibson's, or so say the people who measure these things. (The "slipper crowd," as some insiders refer to the growing audience for senior citizens like Bob Schieffer, will switch from Couric to Gibson, one popular theory holds.) "Nightline" is taken. Oprah still has time on her contract. That leaves "PrimeTime Live" and GMA, or nothing. Network news has reached full employment, at least until Andersoon Cooper's CNN contract expires next year.