December 18, 2009 at 12:00 PM EST

Charles Gibson anchored ABC World News for the final time this evening. Heading into retirement after 34 years, Gibson started the broadcast by saying that he was pleased that in his last night as anchor he had three strong stories to report on: a U.S.-led attack on Al-Qaeda members in Yemen, an imminent snowstorm on the Northeast coast of America, and details about the international climate conference being held in Copenhagen.

Gibson delivered these stories with his usual, admirable straightforwardness… in roughly ten minutes’ time. The rest of the half-hour was taken up with soft-news stories such as an American father’s custody battle for his son living in Brazil. Whenever I watch the evening TV news — and it’s not often; I’m like most Americans in that regard — I’m struck anew at how little hard news there is on these shows. It’s not Gibson’s fault. This is the way the nightly newscasts have headed for years now, cluttering up their time with heart-tugging non-news and “people of the week”-ish, feel-good junk.

As for Gibson, he served his time at the anchor desk as well as anyone, and before that, was a calm, civilizing influence as co-host of Good Morning America.

On this night, ABC World News concluded with a bunch of taped tributes to Gibson by what seemed a pretty random assortment of people, from former Presidents Clinton, Carter, and both Bushes, to Whoopi Goldberg and novelist John Irving. And non-people, such as Kermit the Frog. For all I know, maybe Gibson was friends with all of these people (and Kermit); the effect was both sweet and a little odd. When the taped salute ended with kind words from President Obama, we were back in the World News studio with what looked like the show’s entire staff, applauding Charlie. Ever polite, he applauded the staff.

It was a nice way to go into retirement.

I’m curious: Do you watch the evening news?

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