For many Americans, Diane Sawyer was a familiar face on ABC World News. Then in June 2014 the network announced that she’d be stepping down as news anchor on the show, and her public appearances consequently became less frequent. So, where is Sawyer now, and what has she been up to since leaving her position?
For those of you who are regular news viewers, Sawyer’s name may be practically synonymous with hard-hitting journalism. Her career has been long and storied, too; she has been on and off our TV screens since 1967, in fact. But Sawyer’s penchant for public affairs seemingly began many decades ago in Louisville, Kentucky, where her family relocated shortly after she was born.
The future news anchor had come into the world in December 1945, in Glasgow, Kentucky, as the youngest child of Jean Sawyer and Erbon Powers “Tom” Sawyer. Sawyer wouldn’t find her calling, however, until she was in her teens and working as editor-in-chief for The Arrow, the newspaper at Louisville’s Seneca High School.
Nor was that Sawyer’s sole achievement when she was young. In 1963, for example, she emerged victorious in America’s Junior Miss scholarship pageant. The future journalist won in part thanks to an essay that focused on the different types of music that had emerged during the American Civil War.
Then after Sawyer graduated in journalism from the University of Louisville, things began heating up professionally for her. Firstly, Kentucky station WLKY-TV hired her as its weather forecaster; ultimately, though, the position wasn’t exciting enough.
And so despite a later promotion to a general-assignment post, Sawyer looked to bigger things. In 1970, then, she moved to Washington, D.C., where the fledgling journalist took on the job of assistant to Jerry Warren – then the White House deputy press secretary. But that was just the beginning.
And it wasn’t long before Sawyer’s ambition lifted her even higher. That’s because, months later, she earned the role of assistant to White House press secretary Ron Ziegler. And in this position, she embarked on first drafts of public statements that President Nixon would ultimately make.
Sawyer’s foray into politics ended in 1978, however, when CBS News employed her as a reporter. Then, two years later, she became a political correspondent for the network. But the journalist’s television career really took off in 1981 when she became the co-anchor on CBS’ Morning with Charles Kuralt.
Sawyer’s promotion gave her a chance to show the world her own journalistic style, too, and she seized the opportunity. For a time, she appeared with her co-anchor on both Morning with Charles Kuralt and CBS Early Morning News; her debut on the former also coincided with a spike in its ratings.
However, when Kuralt left the show, the popularity surge became a slump. In 1984 Sawyer therefore requested another position, which CBS granted that same year. Her new role was as correspondent for the channel’s newsmagazine 60 Minutes, with Sawyer becoming the first woman to ever take up the job.
And perhaps thanks to Sawyer’s presence, 60 Minutes became one of America’s most popular TV shows. She stayed on in her job for half a decade, too, until in 1989 ABC News presented her with another role: co-anchor of Primetime Live.
Sawyer remained with ABC from then on, appearing on several different programs throughout her tenure. Among them was 20/20, on which she worked for two years alongside both Barbara Walters and her Primetime Live colleague Sam Donaldson.
In 1999 Sawyer then returned to morning news through co-anchoring Good Morning America. It’s a testament to both Sawyer’s reporting skills and popularity, too, that she made what was originally intended to be a temporary placement into a more than decade-long stint on the show.
Not only that, but the reporter returned to her old haunt Primetime – now known as Primetime Thursday – in 2000. And she worked on both shows for years before dedicating herself solely to Good Morning America from 2006.
On Good Morning America, Sawyer also broke many news stories to her viewers, including details of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. But although the journalist could have settled in for an even longer stint on the show, it appeared that she wasn’t yet done climbing the career ladder.
Yes, after a decade of co-anchoring Good Morning America, Sawyer revealed that she would be off to pastures new. “I’ve calculated [I’ve done] 2,881 shows, roughly,” she told ABC News in December 2009. It seemed as well that Sawyer wanted to go out with a bang. “I hope you celebrate with us this week [and] laugh this week [before I leave],” she added.
Even so, Sawyer’s co-anchor, Robin Roberts, expressed just how much she would miss her. “It is so difficult,” Roberts confessed to ABC News before comparing her partnership with Sawyer to that of Thelma and Louise. “My Thelma,” she gushed. “Thank you. We are going to do all things just like you this week.”
After that, Sawyer took on her new role as anchor for ABC World News Tonight. It appeared, too, that she was a hit with those watching: after her first month in the job, the program’s viewing figures increased by an impressive 8 percent.
In all, then, that popularity surge meant that nearly nine million viewers on average tuned in for each show. Meanwhile, Sawyer settled into the role, where she developed a signature sign-off: “I’ll see you right back here tomorrow night.”
And for the next five years, the public could have turned on their TV sets to see Sawyer reporting the daily news in whatever form it came in. Her style of interviewing was particularly hard-hitting, too. Robert Downey Jr. even referenced Sawyer’s powerful journalism during an emotional interview with the U.K.’s Channel 4.
Downey Jr. didn’t want his remark taken out of context, however. And as a result, he posted a picture of himself and Sawyer to Instagram not long after. The caption alongside the photo read, “A corrective experience with legitimate journalism” – a seeming approval of the anchor’s work.
Nevertheless, these days, Sawyer isn’t as frequent a sight on our TV screens as she once was. In fact, compared to her previous reporting presence, it may seem as though she’s disappeared completely. And while her absence raises many questions, it’s likely that there are lots of people all asking the same one: where is Sawyer now?
Well, you can trace Sawyer’s diminishing TV presence back to June 2014, when she made yet another announcement about her career. At that time, she revealed that she was stepping down as an anchor for ABC World News Tonight.
And on her last broadcast day with the show, Sawyer explained, “I’m not going far: down the hall, up the stairs. And I am not slowing down but gearing up in a new way [and] already at work on some of the stories that take you into the real lives around us. The ones we rarely get to see.”
Then sadly, in October 2014, Sawyer’s mother Jean passed away in Louisville. Though details of her specific illness weren’t reported, she was believed to have been in poor health for some time. Jean, who was 94 when she died, had been an elementary school teacher and a civic leader.
But despite her grief, Sawyer still gave a statement to the press that month in which she described her mom as “a force of nature, optimistic, spunky and energetic.” Furthermore, she said, Jean had had a real impact on those whom she had once taught.
Talking about her mom, Sawyer recounted, “Her students by the hundreds were jolted into the possibilities of their lives. She was a pioneering spirit.” And the journalist may have spoken from experience, too: after all, her mother was also her third-grade teacher.
But that wasn’t the only loss Sawyer suffered that year, as tragically her husband also passed away in 2014. The news reporter had been wed for 26 years to award-winning director Mike Nichols, who is perhaps best known for successful movies such as Working Girl, The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
And Nichols’ passing came mere weeks after Jean’s death, meaning Sawyer was apparently hit especially hard. An unnamed friend of the reporter seemingly confirmed, too, how Sawyer had been struggling to cope during this tough time.
“Losing [Nichols] when [Sawyer] was still grieving over her mother is just an incredible emotional toll,” the anonymous source said to Closer Weekly. “But [she] is holding up as well as you could hope for.” And, understandably, it took the ex-anchor some time to adjust to her new circumstances, although her loved ones helped ease the transition.
But despite having experienced those devastating losses, Sawyer continued with her successful journalism career. For example, she returned to 20/20, where she embarked on special interviews with contemporary figures. And in earnest talks with Sawyer, guests revealed personal issues or spoke about subjects that they’d never publicly addressed before.
Take April 2015’s Bruce Jenner: The Interview, for example, which Sawyer hosted. There, Jenner came out to Sawyer – and, indeed, the world – as transgender with the four words, “I am a woman.” The former Olympian is now known by the name Caitlyn.
But that wasn’t the last big story that Sawyer would break with 20/20. Since then, she has covered several hard-hitting topics, in fact, during which she has gotten to the root of issues in her trademark direct yet sympathetic manner.
Nor has Sawyer remained untouched by loss since her husband and mother passed away. In March 2016 former First Lady Nancy Reagan died, and the journalist was invited to speak at the funeral. She was among many other distinguished guests at the occasion, including former president George W. Bush and Michelle Obama.
But Sawyer has resumed her on-point journalism, which has included a foray into the subject of Islamist terrorism. Her investigation, which looked into ISIS recruitment in America, actually began in 2016, meaning she and her team spent over a year researching the issue.
Then, in a special 20/20 feature broadcast in November 2017, Sawyer revealed the fruits of her and her colleagues’ labor. In the process of making the show, she had secured exclusive interviews with both teenage ISIS members and devastated parents trying to find their radicalized children.
Sawyer continued to pop up on screens throughout 2018, too. During that year, for example, she interviewed Sally Field on Good Morning America. And during the chat, the actress opened up to Sawyer about her relationship with the late Burt Reynolds.
Additionally, in April that year Sawyer tackled the topic of sexual harassment for ABC’s The View. In light of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal and the MeToo movement, the anchor took the issue to street level, where her investigation revealed how the same issue affects regular people as well as big Hollywood names.
Plus, Sawyer has already made an appearance in the press in 2019 – albeit as an interviewee. To help commemorate the 15th anniversary of its website TVNewser, Adweek questioned both Sawyer and her one-time co-anchor Roberts. And there, the pair revealed the truth behind their relationship.
“Sometimes I think we had the same parents,” Sawyer told Adweek. And Roberts concurred. “I often feel that way,” she said, adding that Sawyer is a genuinely caring person. So, although we don’t see Sawyer as often as we used to, she is still very much in the spotlight. And as the veteran broadcaster once said herself, she’s not gone far.