Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith had co-anchored the ABC Evening News from December 1970. In 1975, Reasoner assumed sole anchor responsibilities until his pairing with Barbara Walters, the first female network anchor, in Oct. 1976. Ratings for the nightly news broadcast declined shortly thereafter.
On July 10, 1978, Roone Arledge, head of ABC's news and sports divisions, launched World News Tonight with a trio of anchors. From Washington D.C., the late Frank Reynolds assumed primary anchor responsiblities, while Peter Jennings (from London) and the late Max Robinson (from Chicago) - the first African-American network news anchor - provided secondary duties.
From 1983 to 2005, the program as anchored by Peter Jennings. Following Jennings' death, the program was renamed on August 15, 2005, from World News Tonight with Peter Jennings to World News Tonight. Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff were named as co-anchors. Woodruff was severely wounded in January 2006 while reporting from Iraq. Vargas stepped down for maternity leave in May 2006 and Charles Gibson was named as permanent anchor.