To the People

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

How Does ABC Spin Vargas After Promotion, Pregnancy, Criticism, Low Ratings, Demotion, Baby and Plan to Return? Not Well

I wonder how much hand-wringing went on at ABC News over how to describe the birth of Elizabeth Vargas's kid. Remember her? She's the former World News Tonight anchor who left the network to have a child seemingly fifteen minutes after having been awarded the co-ancorship with Bob Woodruff, who was critically injured by a bomb while reporting from Iraq.

(Thankfully, it looks like Woodruff is doing well enough these days to toss a football and even be part of the ABC team that's working on the network's Katrina anniversary coverage.)

So if you're a network and your co-anchor bails on you shortly after you promote her, and you hire someone to replace her but still keep her in your employ (20/20), what do you call her?

Oddly -- or perhaps not, given their hiring of Charlie Gibson -- ABC flubs it. The network refers to Vargas in a bio as "co-anchor of ABC News' 'World News Tonight'... [and]... co-anchor of ABC News' '20/20'." (Get out the shovel! She was let go from World News months ago.) Meanwhile, in the birth notice posted at its site yesterday, ABC refers to her simply as "anchor" -- a position she's never held alone at the network. (She's always only shared an anchor chair.) In ABC's defense, they can't quite figure out what to call the woman who should have been named anchor, either.

I suspect there's strong division over Vargas (and probably a lot else) within ABC, with her 20/20 colleagues on her side -- after all, she'll return there in the fall -- and the news department avoiding her like a jilted lover. Not that I blame them at all.