The TV newsmagazine, 'PrimeTime Live' premiered in the North American summer of 1989. "The emphasis is on 2 things," Sam Donaldson disclosed, "topicality and live broadcasting." Diane Sawyer told 'Vanity Fair' in 1992, "We believed we were the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria (the ships Christopher Columbus used on his first voyage across the Atlantic), and that we were sailing off to prove there was another world in televsion news. And Roone (Arledge) didn't want to give up his dream. He wanted the best of 'Nightline', the best of '60 Minutes', and the best of the town meetings – all in one show."
Rick Kaplan remembered, "(Roone) had an extraordinary idea for this program...his concept was to bring in events from all over the world live." Diane added, "Sam wanted a kind of raucous town meeting, to reinvent a kind of daily news broadcast. I always dreamed of something like the opinion page of a newspaper, in which you'd have essays, the kind of analysis that would be provocative enough to present a thesis to help me figure out what I thought about a particular subject."
From the outset, Roone emphasized, "The essence of 'PrimeTime Live' will not be the set or the audience but the reach, both journalistically and technically." Diane expressed, "After that first show...Sam and I talked about the terrifying difficulty of a studio audience that is watching both taped pieces and live pieces and forming an opinion, which was different than the opinion of the audience back home, and you had trouble figuring our who was your real audience. We knew we were a Hail Mary pass at that point...The studio audience seemed to be hissing us whenever we tried to ask a question, and we were trying to do live interviews that should not have been done live. Yes, Sam and I had no chemistry on the air - but that's like saying the Muzak was not good on the Hindenburg."
Television was described as a collaborative medium. The eventual success of 'PrimeTime Live' was a testament to the talents of many people behind the scenes and on the air. Sam said, "People have to have a sense of what you're doing and I hope that their sense will be that every Thursday night the lead story will be something they've been talking about." Roone remarked, "When 'PrimeTime' succeeded in the toughest time period that then existed in television – Thursday night at 10:00 – it certified that this kind of programing was something special." Diane confessed, "I enjoy doing celebrity profiles. But week in and week out, 'PrimeTime' is primarily an investigative show."
Diane Sawyer graduated from Wellesley College in 1967. Her first TV job was as a "weather girl" at a Louisville station, "That was literally the only job held by a woman at the station at the time." From 1970 to 1974 she was hired as an aide to Richard Nixon's press secretary in the White House, "I was drawn to working in the government because it seemed like a chance to do things...Nixon was such an idiosyncratic character that it seemed possible at first that he might not have known about Watergate."
In 1978, Diane joined CBS News and became the first female correspondent on '60 Minutes' in 1984, "One day my assistant burst into my office with a bulletin. She had just heard Don (Hewitt) tell a CBS seminar he hoped I would be able to join the '60 Minutes' team. He hadn't mentioned dates, but to me it seemed like the equivalent of reading in the parish notes that the pope wants to name you a cardinal…I was pleased. I was honored. I was afraid it wasn't true."
In addition to 'PrimeTime Live', ABC News also deployed Diane to co-anchor the single subject newsmagazine, 'Turning Point' in 1994. "In a way, I think that 'Turning Point' is a turning point for us in news and the newsmagazine business,'' Barbara Walters enthused. Peter Jennings maintained, "The whole point of 'Turning Point' - and that's what I think makes it exciting, and I think that's what makes it risky - is the whole notion of doing a single subject for a whole hour. Whether or not the audience is prepared to sit for that period of time on a weekly basis is a very debatable question. I think we all know that.'' The press release noted, "The greatest stories always have a turning point, a moment when history hangs in the balance or people's lives are changed forever."