Why Diane Sawyer Isn't On TV Much Anymore

Diane Sawyer is one of the most recognizable names in journalism. Since 1989, ABC viewers have welcomed Sawyer into their homes as she reported the most important news events around the world and interviewed key figures. Her reporting has always been a primetime event that viewers looked forward to, but in recent years, she has taken a step back from the nightly news slot and instead pops up only on occasion. Outside of seeing her headline occasional ABC specials, we rarely hear from the veteran reporter. In fact, one of the few personal tweets she's released recently was in response to a flirtatious name drop in the hit Apple TV+ show "Ted Lasso." 

Sawyer even served as inspiration to another Apple TV+ series, "The Morning Show." During the press run for the premiere, Jennifer Aniston revealed to InStyle that Sawyer helped her get into character. She told the magazine, "I've known Diane for years, and I had the joy of getting to pick her brain when I was doing research for the show. Diane's always been so elegant and classy." Sawyer eventually paid the ladies a visit and dropped by the set to show her support for a series that reveals what it's really like for female reporters in the business.

Outside of quick name drops on scripted television, where is Diane Sawyer now? Let's take a look at her journey in stepping back from the spotlight.

Diane Sawyer exits ABC World News

In 2014, Diane Sawyer stepped away from her famous anchor seat at ABC's "World News." Her farewell speech hinted that she was ready to move away from the coveted role and eager to do more exciting fieldwork. She told the audience during her farewell speech, "As I said, I'm not going far — down the hall, up the stairs. And I am not slowing down but gearing up in a new way, already at work on some of the stories that take you into the real lives around us, the ones we rarely get to see." A source close to Sawyer told the Daily News that leaving the desk job was a plan she'd had in mind for awhile — except the ratings and unnamed ABC executives tell a different story. 

As fellow news anchor David Muir took over, the ratings for the show saw a steady increase. Audiences seemed to welcome the young, handsome anchor with open arms and connected more to the revamped style of the show. An anonymous NBC executive felt like Sawyer's time had hit a ceiling and Muir taking over was the only way they could win the ratings war. "As long as Diane was on the show, they were not going to win," he told The Washington Post. "When David Muir filled in [for her], bang, they'd win the day." Whether Sawyer left on her own terms or was quietly pushed out is uncertain. We do know that leaving "World News" set in motion a major change in her career.

A hectic schedule left the journalist overworked

When you've spent your life on television as long as Diane Sawyer has, you're expected to have plenty of highlights and a couple of lowlights as well. Viewers were left confused when Sawyer reportedly appeared drunk during her election coverage in 2012. She seemed to be slurring her words during the reporting and appeared disheveled on air the morning after. As viewers watched this unfold live, many took to social media and wondered if the veteran news anchor had a serious problem with alcohol or if it was a simple case of an overworked journalist running on coffee and lack of sleep. 

Sources close to ABC News told Business Insider, "I think not getting enough sleep played some role in that. She'd probably say that's a fair assessment as well. The fact that it is a marathon and that she should have spent a little more time sleeping and a little less time cramming the night before." Sawyer was scheduled to deliver seven consecutive hours of on-air coverage during the election before officially signing off at 2:30 a.m. That's enough to make anyone loopy! The source speculated that the star of the network was overworked, taking on a great deal of reporting while rarely having time for rest in between. That relentless schedule may have played a part in her wanting to give up the top anchor seat.

The heartbreaking loss of her mother

Diane Sawyer received some earth-shattering news in 2014 when her mother died at the age of 94. Jean Sawyer Hayes was a beloved mother and teacher who spent over three decades in the classroom educating the youth. In October 2014, she was laid to rest in her hometown of Louisville. Family, friends, and the community paid tribute to her. Sawyer lovingly described her mother to the Courier Journal as "​​a force of nature, optimistic, spunky and energetic — qualities that served her well working with young children." 

Sawyer heard the news of her mother's passing while working at ABC studios in New York and quickly flew to Kentucky to be with friends and family. They respectfully declined flowers and encouraged anyone who wanted to pay tribute to instead donate money for a scholarship fund created in Hayes' honor. ABC News chief James Goldston offered his condolences and said the ABC family would "embrace her [Sawyer]" whenever she was ready to return back to work. Leaving ABC's "World News" and losing her mother were two major changes in Sawyer's life in a short amount of time. 

Losing the love of her life

In the midst of grieving her mother, another crushing blow hit Diane Sawyer. Just days before his 83rd birthday, Sawyer's longtime husband, Mike Nichols, suffered a fatal heart attack.  Nichols was an award-winning producer and director, known for films like "The Graduate" and "Working Girl." As the years went on, Nichols and Sawyer quickly became a power couple in New York and were always seen at events cheering each other on. This was Nichols' fourth marriage, but Sawyer famously said that this would be her only marriage. She maintained a close relationship with his kids from a previous marriage. Nichols never shied away from declaring Sawyer as the love of his life, telling New York Magazine, "My ultimate happiness began in 1988 when I married Diane." When her husband fell ill, Sawyer remained by his side until he died.

Sawyer has never publicly spoken about her husband's passing, but a source told the Daily Mail that one way she coped with the overwhelming grief was by finding inspiration in her work: "She still gets a rush from getting a big story. That feeling has never left her." Even after the devastating year of 2014, Diane worked hard and landed the exclusive interview that introduced Caitlyn Jenner to the world in 2015. Also, ABC announced that Sawyer landed the first-ever televised interview with Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold. These big career wins kickstarted the rebirth of Sawyer's time at ABC. While no longer reporting the nightly news, she instead delivered exclusive interviews and investigative specials.

Past interviews come back to haunt the news personality

One of the things that made Diane Sawyer famous in the world of journalism was landing big-name interviews for primetime television. Whether it was political leaders or pop stars, she put them in the hot seat and asked hard-hitting questions that made for must-see television. However, Sawyer has found herself in the hot seat as past interviews with Britney Spears and Janet Jackson have resurfaced and gone viral. With the release of Hulu's "Framing Britney Spears," the public has reexamined her style of interviewing and deemed it invasive and insensitive. Sawyer's ability to sternly question celebrities like Whitney Houston about their controversies was previously celebrated as "real journalism" but now is considered by some to be cruel.

It wasn't just viewers who spoke out against Sawyer. As Britney Spears regained control of her life, she took to Instagram in an explosive post calling out Sawyer for that infamous 2003 interview. "Do we dare forget the Diane Sawyer interview in my apartment almost 20 years ago?" she captioned the post. "What was with the 'You're in the wrong' approach?? Geeze ... and making me cry???" (per People). Sawyer has stayed mum and remained quiet on social media, even though an army of Britney fans have bombarded her comment sections demanding an official apology for her insensitivity. The 2021 backlash of past interviews might be a reason the journalist took a step back from chasing high-profile celebrity sit-downs and instead set her focus more on interviewing regular Americans with real stories to tell.

Diane Sawyer's reported behind-the-scenes feuds

With over three decades in journalism, Diane Sawyer was bound to make some enemies along the way. Though she hasn't publicly addressed any supposed rivalries, countless stories exist about her bitter feuds with peers like Barbara Walters and Katie Couric, as well as a rumored feud with Charlie Gibson, reportedly for her being overly competitive. Connie Chung even compared her time working with Sawyer and Barbra Walters as being in a "shark tank."

In 2014, Sheila Weller released "The News Sorority," a behind-the-scenes look at the world of journalism, and Sawyer frequently gets name-dropped throughout. The Daily Beast uncovered some of the juiciest stories about Sawyer's rivalry with Couric and Walters. One ABC News staffer said, "Barbara and Diane were determined to kill each other — to wipe each other off the face of the earth." The book also alleges that Couric and Sawyer used nasty tactics to land coveted interviews. Reportedly, even Sawyer's husband got involved, telling a  friend that their friendship would be over should they agree to appear on "Today." Couric even accused Sawyer of landing interviews for reasons other than her talent, quoted in the book as saying, "I wonder who she b*** this time" after Sawyer landed an interview she wanted.

These feuds could possibly be a reason Sawyer stepped away from headlining shows and opting for a more solo approach to reporting. Instead of fighting for big interviews, she's able to spend months at a time working on one story.

She's still chasing major interviews

After leaving the ABC desk behind, Diane Sawyer didn't completely disappear from television. She reported important stories, just in a different way. Sawyer jumped headfirst into fieldwork and headlined specials like "My Reality: A Hidden America." In 2016, Sawyer even had the chance to interview her fellow ABC colleague Elizabeth Vargas, who came forward about her battle with alcohol abuse and anxiety. Vargas spoke openly about how her mental health struggles and stress from her job drove her to alcoholism. This interview served as the highly promoted season premiere of ABC's "20/20." 

In November 2021, she once again landed an exclusive interview, this time with the Turpin children who recounted their story of being held captive by their parents. Sawyer revealed on Good Morning America that interviewing the Turpin children showed her the power of resilience, saying, "I have seen a lot of amazing life come out of unexpected and great suffering. But these girls ... have a story to tell that's going to teach us something." These specials once again had Sawyer at the forefront, covering stories that were less sensational than her celebrity interviews and focused more on heartfelt issues.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

The famous broadcast journalist is still reporting major news

Diane Sawyer has been on the frontlines reporting on major events in history, and the veteran journalist is still at it. Just two months after the crisis of COVID-19 hit, Sawyer once again grabbed her camera crew and hit the scene. She headlined an emotional special titled "Our New Reality" for ABC, documenting the early life of the pandemic. She spoke with families, nurses, and scientists to uncover the real toll this virus is taking on the world. In September 2021, Sawyer had an emotional reunion with over 40 families who lost husbands and fathers on September 11. She'd interviewed them 20 years prior and kept in contact with them throughout the years, so the special revisited them and covered their growth in that time. 

The ABC special titled "The Babies of 9/11: Twenty Years Later" is just one of the specials Sawyer has headlined in 2021. After leaving "ABC World News," Sawyer shifted her work to focus more on the stories and less on herself. Her specials only come out occasionally, which is why we don't see her on our screens as often. She shifted away from pop culture and celebrity interviews and now takes her time reporting on stories that matter to her and matter to her audience. At 76 years old, Diane Sawyer is still at it!