NEW YORK – Former ABC News anchor Charles Gibson dropped completely out of the public eye upon his retirement in 2009. Now, prodded by his daughter Kate, he's back.
The two are collaborating on “The Book Case,” a weekly podcast on reading and authors produced by ABC Audio that debuted Monday and featured a conversation with Oprah Winfrey about her influential book club. The Gibsons will interview authors and, in general, do what they can to encourage reading.
Even during some strained times in her teen years, Kate said she could always talk to her father about books. Kept apart during the pandemic — she lives in Minneapolis, dad is in New York — those discussions continued. She suggested a podcast on reading, and he readily agreed, perhaps not realizing what he was getting himself into.
“He called me up and said, ‘Oh, my God, this is going to be a lot of work,’” said Kate Gibson, a mother of two who worked as a television executive but now is studying for a master's degree in library and information science.
Yet in conversation, the 79-year-old Gibson is clearly juiced by the project.
He's never written a book himself. He marvels about their interviews with authors and the different approaches writers take to their work. Some map their books out completely ahead of time, others go sentence by sentence to see where it leads them.
“It's proving to be extraordinarily educational for us, and I think, not only will you get some good recommendations of books, but I think you'll learn a lot about writing,” he said.
They lean toward fiction, but not solely. Father and daughter each have veto power; each has to agree a particular book is worth recommending or believe that an author will make a compelling interview. On each podcast, an independent bookseller will report on what is selling in their region.
Besides individual books — each marvels about Niall Williams' novel “This is Happiness” — they want to talk about ways to encourage young people to read. A goal is to make libraries seem less intimidating, and one of their early episodes includes a talk with Carla Hayden, the librarian of Congress.
They talk to novelist Anna Quindlen not only about her work but on how handwritten notes and letters are becoming rarer, and how this will hinder future historians in knowing about day-to-day life.
“Write,” Charles Gibson said. “Even if you don't have anything to say. She writes about how she wishes her father had written a journal, so that she could have a piece of him now that he's gone.”
Following the debut, new episodes will be released each Thursday on most services that carry podcasts, starting this week.
“It ‘drops’ on Thursday, as they say,” Gibson said.
“Hipster alert!” his daughter jokes.
Gibson said his essential disappearance from public upon retirement was quite intentional. Gibson was a “Good Morning America” host from 1987 to 1998, then returned from 1999 to 2006. He was “World News Tonight” anchor from 2006 to 2009.
Some people hang around in some type of “emeritus” fashion; he wanted to cut the cord. He reemerged once, as a commentator on ABC News' Election Night coverage in 2016, and found it unsatisfying. His time had passed.
He keeps up with “Good Morning America” some, and sees the evening news regularly. Yet he finds that difficult because he's always editing in his head, wondering why one story was chosen over another, or whether something important went unsaid.
“It's hard to watch because you know a lot about what is going on behind the scenes,” he said. “It's better to be gone, and I have enjoyed retirement immensely.”