NEW YORK (AP) — After 17 years of greeting bleary-eyed viewers with a smile first thing in the morning, Joan Lunden is leaving ABC’s “Good Morning America” to concentrate on prime-time specials for the network.
Lunden said on Tuesday that her last morning appearance would come in September.
Since first appearing on “Good Morning America” as a consumer reporter in 1976, Lunden has been one of the most durable personalities in morning television. She became co-host with David Hartman in 1980 and has been paired with Charles Gibson since 1987.
Viewers responded to the show’s lighter touch to make it morning’s top program for much of the 1980s and early 1990s, but it has fallen well behind NBC’s “Today” during the past few years. Last week the “Today” show topped “Good Morning America” in the ratings for the 75th consecutive week.
“After 20 years of waking up America with a smile, and having been given incredible opportunities on `Good Morning America,’ I have asked the executives of ABC to give me a chance to do something I’ve never done — wake up my own children with a smile, while they’re still children,” Lunden said.
Elizabeth Vargas, who jumped from “Today” last year to read the news and sub for Lunden, and ABC correspondent Deborah Roberts have been mentioned as candidates to succeed her.