ABC mulls anchor gap

Net to unveil News plans in Woodruff's absence

NEW YORK — ABC “World News Tonight” co-anchor Bob Woodruff continued to improve in a U.S. military hospital in Germany on Monday after suffering severe head and chest wounds from a roadside bomb that hit his convoy in Iraq.

Woodruff’s injuries and inevitable extended absence will likely force ABC News to bring another personality into “World News Tonight” to share the workload with Elizabeth Vargas. A decision on a replacement could be announced as early as today.

Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were filming a standup from atop a moving Iraqi troop transport Sunday when the explosion sprayed the two with shrapnel from the chest up.

Woodruff was the more seriously hurt of the two, and American military doctors removed part of his skull Sunday to relieve pressure on his brain, according to NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who spoke with the family before describing the situation on “Today.”

Woodruff suffered severe cuts to the face and neck and chest wounds, as well as a broken collar bone and ribs. Brokaw said it was unclear whether shrapnel had penetrated Woodruff’s brain or if his injuries were from the concussive force of the blast.

“As we have known, Doug is in somewhat better condition than Bob,” ABC News president David Westin said. “We have a long way to go. But it appears that we may have also come some distance from yesterday.”

A hospital official at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany told the AP that the body armor Woodruff was wearing probably saved his life.

Woodruff and Vogt were flown to Germany for treatment Sunday night; Westin said they may be transferred to the U.S. as early as today.

When ABC named Woodruff and Vargas as replacements for Peter Jennings in November, it built its broadcast infrastructure on the dual-anchor concept, including an increased workload that would be difficult for one person to sustain.

ABC’s “World News Tonight” added both a live Webcast at 3 p.m. and a third, live, West Coast edition at 9:30 p.m. ET. In addition, one of the two anchors would often be on the road in order to lend immediacy to the broadcast.

“We are committed to the format we announced with Bob and Elizabeth,” spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said. “We are going to continue talking and expect we are soon going to be able to say how we’ll handle this interim period.”

Vargas and “Good Morning America” co-anchor Charlie Gibson shared anchor duties following Jennings’ death.

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