After 11 years on Good Morning America, journalist Diane Sawyer has traded in her early mornings for a seat behind the anchor desk at ABC's World News. Now that Diane's the woman behind the evening news, Oprah says she's rearranged her whole schedule in order to watch. "I think she's the classiest woman on TV," Oprah says.
Diane says she's loving her new gig. "It mainly is a joy to come into work every day with these incredibly smart people," she says. "The evening news is still such a powerful place in America for muscling up to get something done, and that's what I love. Where you wake up every morning and we say, 'Don't tell us we can't get answers.' Yes, we will. We're going to get answers."
If there's one thing Diane does not miss about working at Good Morning America, it's the early mornings. "I got up at 3:45 to 4," she says. "Sometimes I talked myself out of it. In my sleep I had a whole series of dreams designed to talk me out of why I didn't have to get up early and how this was going to be an easier day."
One of the biggest adjustments to evening news, Diane says, was getting used to how little time she has to deliver. "In the morning, you have two hours and you can kind of say what you think, and suddenly you're compressed to a much shorter amount of time and you want to make every sentence matter," she says.
Diane's recent reporting has taken her to both Afghanistan and Haiti—in only two days. "We're sitting in Afghanistan, we finished our reporting there over several days and we look up [at the crawl] and it says there's a challenge in Haiti and everybody said, 'Rebook, reschedule,'" she says. "We flew straight to Europe. Europe to New York. Threw bags off, got the other bags because one was cold and one was hot, went to Haiti. It took me three tries to get in that morning. We stayed up all night. We just kept pushing until we finally got in on this teeny helicopter that morning and we made it in time."
Keeping her busy schedule can be exhausting, but Diane says in instances like her trip to Haiti, her curiosity keeps her going. "It is just a [burst] of energy from what people need to know about the sheer moment-by-moment courage of [the Haitian] people in the middle of this impossible devastation."
She's certainly a natural behind an anchor desk, but Diane hasn't always been delivering the hard news. She started out in 1967 as a weather girl at WLKY in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. "I was terrible," she says. "I didn't wear contact lenses then, and I couldn't actually see the West Coast. I was giving my impression of the West Coast most of the time."
More than 40 years later, Diane's done thousands of interviews but says the ones she likes most have been with young children with big dreams. "My favorites are when I get to go to Appalachia and talk to the kids up there. The remarkable kids who in the midst of horizons about this big are dreaming of a future as wide as everybody else," she says.
Diane's also struck by the interviews that leave her wondering, "What just happened?" she says. "Like Saddam Hussein," she says. "I was asking him if he had killed people and I was asking why he had those big portraits of himself up there. Wasn't it kind of embarrassing at the very least?"
Diane's reported from plenty of danger zones but says she is rarely afraid. "Something just blocks out everything but why you're there and the purpose of why you're there," she says. "I remember being afraid once, and it was in a civil war in Africa and some kids with AK-47s took us out into the countryside in a concrete space and I thought, 'I've done this to my crew.'"
As for her least favorite interviews, Diane says getting celebrities to open up can be hard. "They're so shy," she says. "I don't know why we think they should be able to come on talk shows. Because the definition of what [an actor] is, is to be interior and to have everything be all folded in and so that to be sitting there with somebody who just can't talk... it's a struggle."
Though Diane has become the star of the ABC's evening broadcast, she says the news is ultimately about the stories being told, not the person telling it. "It's about the work you're doing, the purpose you have, what you actually accomplish, whether you change people's lives," she says. "That's ultimately the signature of the broadcast. It's not me."
When she's not behind the desk, Diane says she's spending time with her husband of 21 years, legendary director Mike Nichols. Even after all this time, Diane says their relationship has changed now that she's not working morning show hours anymore. "He said to me the other day, 'You know, there's just more of you now.' And I know what he means," she says. "We have time in the evening. We cook. It's like kids, we can't believe we get to stay up so late and we'll cook really late. We stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning because we're talking. Even though I was home in the afternoon a lot of the time before, you don't talk the same way. It's that day is done and let's learn about each other all over again every day."