The weekend anchor and weekday correspondent for “ABC World News“ already had a reputation as one of television’s busiest, most energetic journalists when he added another big role to his portfolio last month: co-anchor (with Elizabeth Vargas) of ABC’s Friday newsmagazine, succeeding Chris Cuomo, who has moved to CNN.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” the personable Muir tells Zap2it. “Only a handful of people since Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters have had the opportunity to anchor ’20/20,’ so when they asked me, you can imagine my reaction.
“’20/20′ is going to allow me to do more of what viewers have seen on other broadcasts – and you’ll see a much stronger relationship between ‘World News’ and ’20/20.’ You’ll see some of the hard-news reporting that viewers have become familiar with when I sit there with Diane (Sawyer, anchor of the weeknight ‘World News’), but in a longer form. It really allows for a greater partnership between the broadcasts.”
Indeed, Muir intends to contribute “20/20” reports from the field often, which he proved just after he started the job. He spent two days in Alabama covering the aftermath of the rescue of Ethan, the youngster kidnapped from a school bus by a gunman who fatally shot the driver, then held the boy in an underground bunker for nearly a week.
For any individual efforts, Muir is highly collaborative, evident from how many other correspondents he typically brings in for direct chats while he anchors “World News.”
“We’re a team,” he reasons. “When Elizabeth and I learned we were going to be teaming up, her smile said volumes. She and I are reporters first, and we’ve been out on giant stories together. We’ve often said, ‘It would be extraordinary to team up’ … so we now joke, ‘Finally, our hints were heard.’ “
After stints at stations in Syracuse, N.Y. — his hometown — and Boston, Muir joined ABC News in 2003, first as an anchor of “World News Now.” It didn’t take long for him to be called up from the overnight shift, with Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns among his major assignments.
“I have to say I don’t take much time to look back,” Muir claims of his professional trajectory. “I keep my head down and work as hard as I can, and I think that has been noticed by the bosses here, but it’s not lost on me that I’m often sitting at that desk across from Diane. She has not only been a tremendous mentor, she’s a dear friend of mine behind the scenes.”
A winner of Associated Press and Edward R. Murrow Awards while in Boston, Muir has been noticed elsewhere, too. The TV-news-focused Tyndall Report named him the broadcast network reporter with the most weeknight airtime in 2012. A chunk of that time went to a pet project, his “Made in America” series showcasing U.S. goods and companies.
“I have never seen anything like the viewer reaction to that,” he notes. “I think it struck a chord when people across the country knew we were struggling to recover from this economy, and we offered tiny tools for people to make a difference on their street, in their neighborhood and in their town. It was simply, ‘Did you buy one thing this year that was made in America?’ When we went back last Christmas to some factories and showrooms, we saw what a difference one year had made when viewers learned of them.”