By Jemimah Noonoo
New York (Dec. 7, 2005) — MU School of Journalism graduate Elizabeth Vargas was picked Monday as one of two anchors to replace Peter Jennings on ABC’s evening newscast, “World News Tonight.”
Vargas, 43, will join Bob Woodruff to replace Jennings, who died of lung cancer in early August. The announcement makes the duo the first co-anchors of an evening newscast since “CBS Evening News” was hosted by Dan Rather and Connie Chung. Vargas will remain co-host of ABC’s “20/20.”
|Left: Elizabeth Vargas, BJ ’84, during a KOMU newscast in 1984. Right: Vargas will co-anchor ABC’s “World News Tonight,” replacing Peter Jennings.|
Their official start date will be Jan. 3.
Vargas attended MU from 1980 to 1984, earning a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. She served as both a student reporter at KOMU and later a student editor for KBIA radio. The latter position often had her chasing reporters and editors down so they would meet deadline, recalled Dave Dugan, a former MU journalism professor who served as an adviser to students.
“I’ve never seen somebody with so much energy,” he said. “She was skipping and always moving. She never walked.”
Dugan said that Vargas’ father was a general in the army and that she was well traveled. Dugan said this worldly sophistication helped her coverage of culturally sensitive issues. Her coverage of Elian Gonzales, a six-year-old Cuban boy rescued from the Florida coast, garnered her an Emmy.
Rod Gelatt, a former news director at KOMU, taught a television public affairs course in which Vargas was a student. Gelatt was the host and former producer of “Missouri Forum,” a half-hour public affairs show, during Vargas’ time at MU.
“She was so competent that at one time when I was not available for moderating the ‘Missouri Forum’ program, she hosted it on the air – the only time I recall a student having done so,” Gelatt said.
Gelatt, who said that Vargas was rumored to have been also been in the running for “Good Morning America,” but lost to Diane Sawyer, said she had established a reputable résumé.
“She built a pretty solid record with ‘Prime Time,’ and her reporting skills came through during the hurricane disasters along the Gulf coast two months ago,” he said. “I’m delighted for her official confirmation as co-anchor of ABC nightly news, but not surprised,” he said.
Kent Collins, chairman of the radio-television journalism faculty, remembered Vargas’ go-getter personality.
“Elizabeth was especially hard-working and especially aggressive,” Collins said. “She understood news and what were good news stories. She was quick to jump on a news story and get that news story at any cost.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.