How World News Tonight Became No. 1

The Washington Post takes a closer look at ABC's World News Tonight and how it ascended to the top of the ratings. 

The post writes that starting even before ABC decided to replace anchor Diane Sawyer with rising star David Muir in September. At the same time, the venerable broadcast has slowly evolved into a newscast engineered for the social media age. In important ways, “World News” looks and sounds different from its competitors. It’s brighter, tighter and indeed quite a bit lighter than its evening rivals.

Under Sawyer, “World News” became noticeably softer, with a greater emphasis on celebrity and entertainment stories, weather coverage, crime fare, news-you-can-use and YouTube’s hottest videos. The trend has continued, and perhaps accelerated, with Muir, 41, at the anchor desk.

News from Washington — a staple of the broadcast since its Peter Jennings glory years — now fights for air. It usually loses: “World News” devoted half as many minutes to Washington stories as CBS did during the first four months of the year, and about 40 percent less than did NBC, according to Andrew Tyndall, who tracks the networks’ newscasts through his eponymous newsletter.

In perhaps a first for a national newscast, “World News” no longer has a full-time correspondent reporting on Congress. Such stories are handled on an ad hoc basis by reporter Jonathan Karl, whose primary beats are the White House and political campaigns.

It’s not just what “World News” covers that sets the broadcast apart, but how quickly it covers it. By design, Muir’s newscast has a faster and more urgent pace than those of his predecessor and rivals. According to Tyndall’s statistics, the average correspondent’s news report on “World News” was just 100 seconds last fall, compared with 138 seconds on NBC and 121 on CBS.

So for all those stations looking to make it to the top of ratings, you might want to take a cure from ABC. Do less news, more fluff and stay away from politics.

Uncle Walter just flipped over one more time.