Diane Sawyer Biography

News Anchor, Journalist(1945–)
As the first female correspondent on 60 Minutes and the anchor of ABC World News, Diane Sawyer has blazed a path for women in broadcast journalism.

Synopsis

Diane Sawyer was born on December 22, 1945, and attended Wellesley College. She began her journalism career in the local Kentucky news before moving on to the White House press office under President Richard Nixon. A few years after Nixon's resignation, Sawyer began rising through the ranks at CBS News. In 1984, she was the first woman correspondent for CBS's marquee news magazine 60 Minutes, and from there her career has been a ceaseless climb up the news ladder, culminating in an array of honors and awards and a spot in the echelon of American news reporters.

Early Years

Lila Diane Sawyer was born on December 22, 1945, in Glasgow, Kentucky, the second of two daughters. Sawyer’s father was a Navy captain in World War II and went on to become a respected Republican politician. Sawyer’s mother was a grade school teacher who ensured that the Sawyer girls both kept busy with lessons in elocution, the dramatic arts, singing and fencing.

Diane always stayed active as a youth, singing in the local choir and serving on the debate team and as editor of her school’s yearbook. She was so ambitious, in fact, that she was voted “most likely to succeed” by her classmates. When Sawyer was 16, her sister, Linda, became first runner-up in the 1962 Junior Miss Competition, and Sawyer followed in her footsteps the following year, despite being more gawky than glamorous. While her academic enthusiasm put off the judges, her charm won them over, and she became the 1963 Miss Junior Miss of America.

Sawyer followed in her sister’s footsteps for college as well, attending the prestigious all-girls college Wellesley, graduating in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in English. She then left Massachusetts and returned to Kentucky, where she moved to Louisville to pursue a career in reporting.

On Air

After Sawyer approached a local TV station for a job, her Junior Miss crown came in handy. The locals knew all about her and hired her on as the “weather girl,” one of the few positions available to women in the news industry at the time.

When her shift was over, Sawyer stayed at the station late into the night, learning how to operate the camera and edit film. She also pushed for more on-air assignments and was finally given the chance when she was sent out for a story on Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. With that assignment under her belt, Sawyer pushed harder for any story the station could give her, and she was eventually promoted to full-time news reporter.

Politics

In 1970, Sawyer left the newsroom for Washington and became a press assistant to President Richard Nixon. It was a job that redefined stress for the young professional, and she recalls, “I remember the terror, the terror of making a mistake. A mistake I made could alter history.” At first, Nixon referred to her as the “tall girl,” but as she proved her mettle, the president revised her moniker to the “smart girl.”

Four years later, she was witness to Nixon’s downfall when, on August 9, 1974, he resigned the presidency in shame in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Sawyer became part of a small group of loyalists who left D.C. with Nixon, essentially into exile, and for four years she helped his legal team with research and assisted Nixon in writing his memoirs.

On the National Stage

Worn out, Sawyer returned to reporting in 1978 as a correspondent for CBS News. From this point her path was set, and it had her rising steadily through the ranks of major news agencies and programs. As the co-anchor of CBS Morning News, Sawyer worked with legendary television journalist Charles Kuralt from 1982 to 1984. And in 1984, she broke new ground as the first woman to work as a correspondent on the award-winning news magazine 60 Minutes.

Leaving CBS in 1989, Sawyer went to ABC to co-anchor Primetime Live with Sam Donaldson. While working on this program, she covered a number of crucial stories, including the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Sawyer then became the co-anchor of Good Morning America with Charles Gibson in 1999 and was the co-anchor of Primetime Live from 2000 to 2006. From there, Sawyer became anchor of ABC World News, the network's flagship nighttime news program, a position she held until 2014.

Recently, Sawyer held an exclusive interview with Olympic gold medalist and reality TV star Bruce Jenner, who talked about his life as a transgendered person. Sawyer's body of work has earned her numerous awards, including duPonts, Emmys, Peabodys and the USC Distinguished Achievement in Journalism Award. In 1997 she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

Sawyer was married to acclaimed film director Mike Nichols from 1988 until his 2014 death.

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