ABC snags foreign reporter Amanpour from CNN to host 'This Week'

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, March 19, 2010

ABC has snagged CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, to take over as anchor of its Sunday Beltway show, "This Week."

She's replacing George Stephanopoulos, who left the show to take Diane Sawyer's place at "Good Morning America," after Sawyer took over as anchor of ABC's evening newscast, when Charlie Gibson decided to retire. Still with me?

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. Some suggested the decision was foisted upon the news division by its Disneyland bosses (ABC is owned by Disney).

But ABC News President David Westin had one of the snappiest comebacks we've ever come across:

"With Christiane we have the opportunity to provide our audiences with something different on Sunday mornings," Westin said in a memo to ABC News staffers.

"We will continue to provide the best in interviews and analysis about domestic politics and policies. But now we will add to that an international perspective. All of us know how much the international and the domestic have come to affect one another -- whether it's global conflict, terrorism, humanitarian crises, or the economy."

Added Amanpour: "I didn't know about war until I started covering it. . . . I didn't know about famine until I was in the middle of one."

"This is an opportunity to explain domestic politics and how it impacts the world," she told The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz. "I've always tried to make foreign news less foreign."

And when it comes to international news, Amanpour has clout in spades. Queen Elizabeth II made her a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2007 for her "highly distinguished, innovative contribution" to journalism. In 1998, Sarajevo named her an honorary citizen for her "personal contribution to spreading the truth" during the Bosnia war from 1992 to 1995.

As CNN noted, in her 18 years as an international correspondent at that network, Amanpour has reported on all the major crises from the world's hot spots, including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans and, yes, the United States, during Hurricane Katrina.

In a memo to CNN staff members about Amanpour's departure next month, CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton said: "Her work burnished our news brand and gave it authority. In turn, the CNN imprimatur opened doors for her around the world and provided a global platform for the intelligent, courageous, principled reporting that is her signature. CNN and Christiane helped make each other great."

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