By turning to Christiane Amanpour -- one of the world’s most recognized journalists -- as host of “This Week,” ABC hopes to send the message that Peter Jennings’ legacy endures even as the network is slashing its news staff and scaling back foreign operations.
Jennings, who died in 2005, projected a sophisticated worldview developed during extensive overseas reporting assignments. Amanpour brings with her similar international sensibilities.
Amanpour, who was born in London and grew up in Iran, has worked at CNN for 27 years, including the last 20 as a foreign correspondent, traveling to such strife-torn countries as Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan. Amanpour, in an interview, said she intended to increase the focus on foreign affairs on the Sunday-morning program. Previous host George Stephanopoulos made his insider's knowledge of Washington the show's hallmark.
The challenge for Amanpour will be to strike a balance between international and domestic policy debates while continuing to satisfy an audience that has come to expect large doses of inside-the-Beltway skinny and analysis of U.S. politics. If Amanpour can attract new viewers -- those who normally don’t tune in to the Sunday-morning news shows -- it would be a boost for ABC News, which has lost ratings momentum for some of its key programs.
“I would be disappointed if Christiane would become another Washington insider,” said Charles Bierbauer, a former top correspondent at CNN and ABC who is now the dean of the University of South Carolina’s College of Mass Communications. “Christiane could very well be the one to infuse a broader perspective -- and that wouldn’t hurt us.”
"This Week's" perspective for years has been squarely on the nation's capital. The show is produced from the Newseum in Washington, with a view from the set overlooking the U.S. Capitol. Amanpour plans to take over “This Week” in August, staying at CNN through the end of April.
“We are much more accustomed to seeing Christiane wearing a bush jacket and in a market in Baghdad or Bosnia,” Bierbauer said, rather than leading a round-table discussion in a studio. “But we are all capable of making these adjustments -- we’re journalists.”