Mr. Gibson, seated with his news show's executive producer, Jon Banner, said he is excited about the 2008 election because this is perhaps the first time since 1952 that the races for the presidential nominations are wide open for both parties. One of his main areas of interest in politics today, he said, is the disappearing middle ground and the redistricting that has made it tougher for politicians to occupy the center. "This is a real problem," Mr. Gibson told attendees. "We have to find a way we could do this on the news."
Reporters seized on the subject of whether it was necessary for anchors to jet into hot zones instead of letting local reporters tell the story. Mr. Gibson acknowledged the importance of beat reporters but said his visit to the Middle East was valuable, because there are new leaders in the region and it's important for him to spend time with key players. He also made a pitch for continued spending on news and on foreign bureaus. "It matters a lot. One of the things you fight hardest for is to maintain budgets that give you representation around the world."
When asked about his wardrobe choices, he said, "Ask Katie," riffing off comments she made Sunday that the TV critics should also direct that question to Mr. Gibson. While Ms. Couric declined to respond, Mr. Gibson said: "I have four ties and five suits, and whichever is on the right, I put on." He opened the session by admitting he'd forgotten his passport when traveling between Israel and Cyprus. "I bet Peter never did that," he joked, referring to the late Peter Jennings.
When questions came up about the renewed competition among broadcast news anchors, Mr. Banner said, "The renewed focus makes all the questions about the vitality of the evening news disappear in my mind."
The title of ABC's broadcast will change to reflect the digital age. The show will be named "World News With Charles Gibson" as of today. Mr. Gibson, who began anchoring the news in May, also helms a 3 p.m. EST web version of the show. Weekly downloads of the broadcast number about 2 million a week, which outpaces some cable-news broadcasts, Mr. Banner said.
No. 1 news
The network also said "World News" has been No. 1 for the past five weeks among people aged 25-54, the primary consumers of news. The broadcast averaged 7.38 million viewers the week of July 10-14.
When asked why he'd declined the anchor seat once before, Mr. Gibson said a temporary job wasn't a winning strategy. ABC News President David Westin had offered Mr. Gibson the position on a short contract after it became clear Mr. Jennings, who died last summer from lung cancer, was too ill to continue. Mr. Westin then installed a dual anchor team of Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas, but that plan unraveled when Mr. Woodruff was injured in Iraq by a roadside bomb and Ms. Vargas revealed she was expecting a baby.
"David wanted to do the experiment, and I thought it had a lot of merit. The experiment was stillborn because of the terrible tragedy [involving Mr. Woodruff], and Elizabeth became pregnant. It's an accident of circumstance that I'm here."