The Washington Post

Amanpour out at ‘This Week’: Yay!

Back in April, Christiane Amanpour hosted a segment on unemployment on her soon-to-be-former Sunday morning show, ABC’s “This Week.” She says in the introduction:

The jobs picture is looking up. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been since March of 2009, just after President Obama took office. So it’s good news if 8.8 percent unemployment can be considered good news. But as the recovery picks up steam, the budget showdown in Washington threatens to derail the progress that’s being made. Here to make sense of it all, our roundtable with [a bunch of Washington types.]

Bolded text inserted to highlight words that shouldn’t be spoken by Christiane Amanpour. We Americans don’t want Amanpour suffering through some panel discussion on domestic politics. We don’t want her trying to tease out the the differences of opinion between “This Week” stalwart George Will and some guest panelist. We don’t want her trying to project keen interest in the ins and outs of tax reform (see the video below at 6:03).

That’s why yesterday’s news — that Amanpour is leaving “This Week” for assignments at both ABC and CNN — liberates both her and her fans. In a statement on the move, Amanpour tried to cast her experience as a panel mediator as something transcendent:

It’s been an incredible experience to have had a ringside seat to democracy in action at ‘This Week.’ It’s been an incredible honor to anchor such a prestigious program and I thank all of you who have helped me on that journey.

You can almost hear the strain required to spit out those words, not a single one of which I believe. For Amanpour, an “incredible experience” is to shuffle around in the royal palaces of dictators and feeding back the results of her reporting on camera. For Amanpour, an “incredible experience” is hovering in a Baghdad courtroom to witness the proceedings against Saddam Hussein. Here’s what she reported to a CNN anchor after that moment. Feel the energy!

AMANPOUR: Well, I’ve just raced back from the courtroom to this convention center, where we’re going to get the video distributed. So let me tell you about what we just saw. We saw first of all Saddam Hussein coming from an armored bus — explosive-proof, we were told — a tan-colored bus, very heavily armored.

He was handcuffed; he had a chain around his waist. He was flanked by two Iraqi guards, and there were other guards standing on the stairs as he was coming down from the bus into the courthouse area. He walked in; he was not shackled by the feet.

For Amanpour, an “incredible experience” is to chat on the phone with Yasser Arafat while his compound is getting bombarded, and then getting hung up on by same.

It’s said that Amanpour didn’t really want to join the Washington crowd that feeds “This Week.” It’s said that her insistence on staying in New York was a reflection of such anguish. It’s said that she couldn’t manage to boost the ratings of “This Week.”

Great, great and great. All of that means this star player may move back to her position. Like the time Michael Jordan retired from baseball.

News of the reversal broke out in stages over the past few weeks — to the extent Amanpour leaving “This Week” qualifies as news in the first place. The wrongness of the assignment roared out from a statement by then-ABC News chief David Westin back in March 2010:

With Christiane we have the opportunity to provide our audiences with something different on Sunday mornings. 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. . . . Our audience has come to us for years to see differing points of views expressed in intelligent and compelling ways; now the different points of view will be expanded beyond partisan politics alone.”

That was way too much innovation to pack into a Sunday morning politics program. The Sunday shows are as sacred as Sunday morning itself; change is out of the question.

Just what Amanpour does from this point requires some detail. In a statement, she says she’ll be a “roving Global Affairs anchor across all ABC platforms,”a position known in English as “foreign correspondent.” “At the same time,” she says, “I will be broadcasting once again to millions of people across the world with a weekday show on CNN International.”

That sounds a bit suspect. But hey, just as long as she’s not sitting in a studio with a bunch of overly dressed pundits on a Sunday morning with the silhouette of the Capitol building at her back, that’s progress. Let the boring people do the Sunday shows.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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