New York—If you tuned in last night to watch the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” or “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer,” you might have thought you were on the wrong channel. Or, more likely than not, you might not have noticed anything at all.
National nightly news anchors Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams switched networks last night, but polls conducted today showed that, remarkably, only 12% of the viewing public noticed.
Sawyer and Williams, who agreed to the switch only after being assured their pay would not reflect a personal day off, used the regular reporting staff of the respective network. Some reports have said that some of the field reporters didn’t notice the change, either. ABC News correspondent David Kerley called Williams “Diane” three times on camera last night.
Producers for both programs confirmed the one-time switch, explaining that Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney, who owns ABC, won a bet with the CEO of NBC, Steve Burke, and had to switch news anchors for a day, “as a goof.”
But what does it say in this day and age when not only would such a stunt occur, but that nearly 90% of the viewing audience didn’t pick up on it or care? Media pundit Mason Chatterly of the New Yorker said it’s just a sign of the times, showing just how few people watch the networks anymore for their news coverage.
“Clearly, now, if say, Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow switched networks, this would have been more of a story,” Chatterly said. “People would likely have hurled their remotes at their TVs had there been a switcheroo at Fox and MSNBC. But for the dozen or so Americans who still watch network news, nobody batted an eye.”
Chatterly said he shuddered to think what Americans would do if reality show judges pulled a stunt like that. “Just imagine if Cee Lo and that British dude from ‘Dancing with the Stars’ switched up for a night. Chaos. Riots in the street. Scary.”
Fred DiMaio contributed to this article