One of the most-watched and trusted television news anchors of all time, Diane Sawyer’s incredible 46-year-long career has taken her many places. In her early twenties, her ambition took her from working as a weather girl in Kentucky to working in the White House. She was a prominent female TV star in the ’80s and ’90s and grew her net worth to $80 million.
In 2014, Sawyer announced that she was “not slowing down but gearing up in a new way,” yet we’ve seen less and less of the former top news anchor. Here’s how Sawyer climbed her way to the top and what happened once she got there.
She Was Inspired To Be A Journalist Early
Born in Glasgow, Kentucky, and raised in Louisville, Sawyer took an interest in journalism and writing early on. She saw herself as an awkward kid who would rather read classic literature down by the creek than engage in typical social activities.
But when it came to journalism, Sawyer wasn’t shy. As a teenager, she became the editor-in-chief for her high school’s newspaper, The Arrow. She went on to attend and graduate from Wellesley College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
She Won A Pageant And Traveled The Country
In her senior year of high school, Sawyer represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky at America’s Junior Miss scholarship pageant and won. The achievement was due in part to an eloquent essay that she wrote about music during the Civil War.
The America Junior Miss title took her on a tour around the country from 1962 to 1965, where Sawyer says she learned to think on her feet with poise and grace.
She Started Off As A Weather Girl
After graduating college with her BA in English, Sawyer took a position at a news station where she grew up, Louisville’s WLKY-TV. Much to her disappointment, Sawyer was hired as a weather forecaster, rather than a journalist.
She found the position dull, and inserted quotes she found inspiring to jazz up the weather report. After paying her dues and getting her foot in the door, Sawyer was reassigned to a general assignment post. But the ambitious young journalist already had one foot out the door, ready to move onto a position that was more challenging.
Assistant To The White House Press Secretary In 1970
Just three years after graduating college, Sawyer made the big move to Washington D.C. in 1970. She landed a coveted position as an assistant to the White House deputy press secretary, Jerry Warren.
The fast-paced environment and meaningful work inspired Sawyer, and she proved to be good at the job. Just months later, she was promoted to assistant of the White House press secretary, Ron Ziegler. Sawyer had the job of writing the first drafts of statements that would be read by then-President Richard Nixon. She also played a role in preparing Nixon for his infamous 1977 television interviews with David Frost.
She Dated Nixon’s Aide, Frank Gannon
After working in the White House as an assistant for press secretary Ron Ziegler, Sawyer met President Richard Nixon’s aide, Frank Gannon. The two were both assisting Nixon at his home in San Clemente, helping him write his memoirs post-Watergate.
The romance didn’t last, however, and Sawyer went back to the east coast, to New York City. She would also later date American diplomat Richard Holbrooke. Sawyer would only end up marrying once, and was quoted saying, “This is my only marriage.”
CBS Hired Her As A Reporter And Co-Anchor
In 1978, after eight years working as the assistant to the press secretary in the White House, CBS News hired Sawyer as a reporter. From there she was promoted to a political correspondent.
Sawyer’s career was set in motion as she proved herself to be highly-capable in front of a camera. In 1981, Sawyer became a co-anchor on Morning With Charles Kuralt at the same time the program was being extended from 60 to 90 minutes.
The First Female Correspondent on 60 Minutes
After appearing as co-anchor on CBS Early Morning News and Morning With Charles Kuralt, Sawyer stepped into serious journalism as the first female correspondent for 60 Minutes.
The CBS News investigative television show was a hit, and has been named No. 6 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. Sawyer had a good run, growing her career and harnessing her talent at CBS. But once again, in 1989, Sawyer was ready to make a move.
She’s One of the “Ladies Of The ’80s”
In the ’80s, Sawyer was included in a trend of powerful women reaching megastar status in their respective careers in television and film. It was during this time that big stars like Meryl Streep, Shelly Long, and Glenn Close grew their fame and net worths to the next level.
As a female journalist, Sawyer was a pioneer and widely respected among her peers. Wherever Sawyer went, ratings went up, as her loyal viewers followed Sawyer across programs and networks.
Moving To Primetime
In 1989, Sawyer made the move to ABC News as the co-anchor of Primetime Live alongside Sam Donaldson. She seamlessly made the transition from morning to evening television, and her career continued to skyrocket. In 1997, Sawyer was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
In 1998, Sawyer joined Barbara Walters and Donaldson as a co-anchor on 20/20. The show proved to be a good fit for Sawyer, as she still conducts interviews on the program too.
She Has a Net Worth of $80 Million
Throughout her career, Sawyer pushed forward to find a place where she could grow her success, never staying stagnant. Sawyer reached the top of her field, and in 2019, had a reported net worth of $80 million.
For Good Morning America, Sawyer earned $12 million and earned a total of $22 million a year. In 2016, she put her former Palisades home that overlooks the Hudson River on the market for $4.6 million.
Returning To Morning Television With Good Morning America
Sawyer was only supposed to be a co-anchor on Good Morning America temporarily when she joined the show in 1999. She made the switch back to morning television after nearly a decade working in primetime.
Once Sawyer joined the show, however, ratings climbed and the show quickly closed the gap with the top morning program at the time, NBC’s Today. Sawyer ended up staying on Good Morning America for almost eleven years.
How Diane Met Her Husband
Diane recalls the story of meeting her husband in an airport in Paris. They recognized each other but Diane initially tried to avoid him, as she told Vanity Fair that she was embarrassed by her “juice-stained turtleneck and ratty jeans.”
When Mike Nichols approached her in the airport he said, “You’re my hero,” to which she replied back, “And you’re mine.” She used her show as an excuse to have lunch with him, suggesting that he would make a good interview. After twelve lunches, they drifted apart. However, once they reconnected in 1988, Sawyer recalls that things “went very, very fast. We decided to get married in a month and a half.”
She Was The First To Announce The 9/11 Tragedy
On September 11, 2001, Sawyer was working as a co-anchor on the set of Good Morning America when the first plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.
Four minutes after the attack, Sawyer and her co-anchor Charlie Gibson were the first to announce the tragedy as they operated out of the newsroom in New York City. The network continued coverage of the 9/11 attacks for the next four days.
Retiring From GMA
In December 2009, after a decade as a co-anchor on Good Morning America, Sawyer announced that she would be leaving the show. She said, “I’ve calculated 2,881 shows, roughly.”
But, that didn’t mean that she was retiring. Once again, Sawyer was moving on to a new opportunity. This time, she would become the host of World News on ABC, replacing Charles Gibson as he retired. ABC News President David Westin said in a statement, “Diane Sawyer is the right person to succeed Charlie and build on what he has accomplished. She has an outstanding and varied career in television journalism.”
She Never Had Children Of Her Own
Sawyer married her husband, German-born film director and producer Mike Nichols in 1988, as she moved into a co-anchor role for ABC Primetime Live. Together, they were a true power couple, supporting one another in their career goals.
Nichols already had three children from his previous marriages, and Sawyer and Nichols never ended up having children together. They appeared very much in love, with Nichols once telling Entertainment Weekly, “We don’t go anywhere. We have our own secret life in our own little place. I don’t know any secrets about what makes a marriage work, except if you can marry Diane, you’ll be in great shape.”
World News Ratings Climbed With Sawyer
Everywhere she went, Sawyer brought her magic touch. World News was no exception– just one month after Sawyer joined the program, in January 2010, viewer ratings increased by 8 percent, averaging 8.8 million viewers each night.
Sawyer had become one of the most reputable news anchors in the world. Also at that time, two of the three network news anchors on broadcast television were women, as Katie Couric anchored CBS Evening News.
Sawyer Announces That She’s Stepping Down
In June 2014, Sawyer announced that she would be stepping down as anchor of ABC World News Tonight. At that point, Sawyer was into her late sixties, the age many Americans think about retiring from their careers. But not Sawyer.
On the last day of World News, Sawyer told viewers, “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.”
Diane’s Mother Passed Away In 2014
Just as Sawyer was “gearing up” for the next exciting chapter of her journalism career, she suffered a great loss. At the age of 94, her mother Jean Sawyer passed away in October of 2014. Diane’s mother was facing health issues leading up to her passing, but still the same, Diane was devastated.
Diane described her mother as “a force of nature, optimistic, spunky, and energetic,” several qualities that Diane embodies herself.
Sawyer’s Husband Dies From A Heart Attack
Weeks later, while Sawyer was still grieving the loss of her mother, her husband Mike Nichols suffered a heart attack at their Manhattan apartment. Sawyer was home at the time. The couple had been married for 26 years, and Nichols had just celebrated his 83rd birthday at the time of his passing on November 19, 2014.
He lived an incredible life and directed highly-acclaimed films including The Graduate, Working Girl, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Top journalists and celebrities including Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Whoopi Golberg, Gayle King, and Jon Hamm said their goodbyes at his memorial service and visited Sawyer’s home.
She’s A Special Contributor For ABC News
Today, she splits her time between New York City and her beachfront home on 17.5 acres in Martha’s Vineyard. Sawyer is no longer a news anchor but a special contributor for ABC News, conducting special interviews with high-profile individuals on occasion.
As one of the most iconic journalists in history, viewers are happy to catch a glimpse of her here and there. But if she were to give her final sign off tomorrow, Sawyer’s career is still beyond remarkable.