ABC News Poaches Black Anchor From CBS

Amid high-profile departures by black news personalities, Byron Pitts gets a shot.

ABC News officially named CBS correspondent Byron Pitts as an anchor and its chief national correspondent Monday, moving Pitts to a network where “diversity is as important as it is to me” and leaving one, he told Journal-isms, that has lost half the number of black correspondents it had when he arrived 16 years ago.

“I don’t think any news organization is where it should be, but the people at ABC are at least talking the talk and making efforts to walk the walk,” Pitts said by telephone.

As chief national correspondent, Pitts said, he will be covering the nation’s major stories. It is a title held by no other person of color at the other networks. Two weeks ago, Jeff Zucker, new president of CNN, said he was excited that Jake Tapper, who is white, will be “the face” of CNN. At that network, John King is chief national correspondent. (Jim Avila, also at ABC, is senior national correspondent and told Journal-isms he is the the first full time Hispanic White House correspondent at a major network.)

Pitts, 52, will also be anchoring hourlong prime-time news specials, another breakthrough for him. He is to fill in as a news reader on “Good Morning America” and on the weekend news. However, Pitts will not be a backup on “World News With Diane Sawyer,” he said, explaining that “the line to that chair is pretty long.”

In his announcement, ABC News President Ben Sherwood said of Pitts, “An accomplished reporter and brilliant storyteller, Byron has a unique talent for stories about people and communities facing the longest odds.

“In his new role, he will file for all platforms, bringing his signature thoughtfulness, seriousness of purpose, and flair.”

Pitts told Journal-isms that Sherwood “came after me aggressively,” along with Barbara Fedida, senior vice president for talent and business.

“He said, ‘We know what you do, and we want you to do that here.’ He talked about diversity.” The subject “was something that he initiated. He said that was a priority for them. He said they want to own the future.”

Pitts mentioned that one of ABC News’ first pieces during the election of Pope Francis last month was by a Hispanic reporter who talked about the significance of the choice to Latin America. Cecilia Vega was in Rome for ABC then.