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Amanpour to ABC's This Week; A Good Change, or a Waste of Talent?

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Going outside its current stable of reporters and anchors, ABC is hiring longtime CNN international reporter Christiane Amanpour to host the Sunday-morning This Week interview show vacated by George Stephanopoulos. TV Newser has the details; among them, that she’ll start in August, until which White House correspondent Jake Tapper (who’s been doing a strong job as sometime interim host and would have been a good pick as well) will fill in.

It’s definitely a change, since Amanpour comes from a world-news background, rather than the D.C.-centric training of the typical Sunday-show host. Whether it’s a good one or a bad one may depend on whether the program changes to fit Amanpour’s strengths, or whether she has to change to fit its demands.

I will be honest: I am not generally a fan of the Sunday morning shows. I can think of about a million things a sane person with human contacts could better spend a Sunday morning doing than watch hosts bring on one Democratic or Republican mouthpiece after another to recite talking points, talk strategy or engage in Tim Russert-esque “But didn’t you say the opposite in 1996…” moments. Some of that is fine, but as a wall-to-wall staple, it’s tedious, it’s uninformative, and its symptomatic of a Washington press corps that’s more concerned with politics than with policy—i.e., with power, rather than how that power is used to affect people’s lives.

We already have four or five (depending which shows you count) interview shows working that same circuit every Sunday morning. Do we need that many? With Amanpour, who’s more known for her work in the Balkans than in the Beltway, ABC has a chance to do a show that breaks from the Sunday shows’ myopic obsessions, that focuses on policies and ideas over partisan handicapping (and kneecapping). It could even—crazy talk, I know—build a show that focuses on world news rather than Washington news.

Or it could spend five months preparing Amanpour to be another Sunday host, a Beltway-politics interviewer with, you know, just a little bit of a difference, just a taste of international flair, a little je ne sais quois. In which case je ne sais what the point is.

Amanpour strikes me as a journalist who doesnt spend a lot of time doing things she doesn’t want to do. Let’s hope she takes this chance to remake the tired Sunday-morning show format, and not let it remake her.