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ABC News' Martin Bashir defects to rival MSNBC

July 22, 2010 | 12:18 pm

Bashirphoto Prominent ABC News "Nightline" co-anchor Martin Bashir is leaving the Walt Disney Co.-owned network to anchor an afternoon program on cable news channel MSNBC.  

The move represents a big loss for ABC News, which is struggling to compete in the 24-hour news cycle against entrenched rivals with greater resources. Earlier this year, ABC News dramatically pared its operation, eliminating 20% of its staff or more than 300 positions. Four months ago, another ABC standout, Kate Snow, bolted to NBC. Unlike NBC, which has cable channels MSNBC and CNBC, ABC journalists have fewer outlets to tell their stories: just a handful of programs on the broadcast network, including "Nightline," "Good Morning America" and "World News Tonight." 

Bashir is best known for in-depth reporting and documentaries, including the illuminating "Living With Michael Jackson" special in 2003, which prompted a police investigation into the late singer's relations with children; an interview with Princess Diana; and his investigation into the Bay Area BALCO steroids scandal, which Billweirensnared Olympic athlete Marion Jones. Bashir will join NBC in September.

In addition to his MSNBC program, he will be a contributor to NBC's prime-time newsmagazine, "Dateline." 

ABC News' Bill Weir, currently an anchor of weekend "Good Morning America," will join Cynthia McFadden and Terry Moran on "Nightline."  The 31-year-old news program, "Nightline," has been gaining in the late-night ratings race against CBS' David Letterman and NBC's Jay Leno. It is one of the few bright spots for ABC News.

Weir, who was in contention for the "Good Morning America" anchor post that went to George Stephanopoulos, has been with ABC News since 2004. The shift means a complete makeover for weekend "Good Morning America," which began when Snow left for NBC. ABC News has not announced a replacement for Weir on "Good Morning America."

— Meg James

Photos of Martin Bashir, top left, and Bill Weir, bottom right courtesy of ABC.