Has a family feud erupted at ABC News? That’s the word from network insiders who say there’s bad blood between the staffs of PrimeTime Live and 20/20, and between news stars Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters.
Familial tempers flared in August when PrimeTime broadcast a year-old interview Sawyer did with Katharine Hepburn, just two weeks before 20/20 aired Walters’ fresh Hepburn profile. The tumult continued when Sawyer scooped an interview with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad — a piece Walters was toiling to get. ”There’s tension between the two shows,” says one 20/20 staffer. ”We’re going after the same stories.”
The real fracas, according to insiders, is over ABC News president Roone Arledge, who some feel favors Sawyer and PrimeTime. Staffers claim more attention and money are being paid to the two-year-old show than to 20/20, a network mainstay. But a source at PrimeTime points out: ”We’re a new show; what do they expect? People are mad because we’re doing well.” The 20/20 staff has also begun to wonder just what PrimeTime — originally designed to cover breaking news events — is doing with investigative pieces. ”They are becoming us,” says a 20/20 source.
”The shows are very different,” responds ABC spokeswoman Sherrie Rollins. ”They share a healthy competition.” As for PrimeTime airing the old Hepburn piece, she calls it a ”management mistake.”