The untold truth of David Muir

In 1976, as nightly news programs began to grow in popularity, a young Boston journalist made history. Barbara Walters, one of the most recognizable faces on American TV, became, as Variety put it, the “first woman to anchor a nightly newscast at a time when the three networks were the principal source of information for many Americans.” Around the same time, other networks began working with future broadcasting legends like Tom Brokaw, Walter Cronkite, and Dan Rather. David Muir hoped to join this list in 2014 when he became the newest lead anchor for ABC’s World News Tonight. And he did not disappoint: In 2020, the show’s ratings were so high, the AP called Muir “broadcast television’s star of the summer.”

And his popularity is not just with older viewers who still tune in to nightly broadcasts. As The Washington Post noted, the program under Muir boasts attractive numbers for viewers “between ages 25 and 54.” Plus, segments like an “interview with Bill and Melinda Gates attracted more than half a million social media views, including on Instagram.”

“This is my dream job, no question,” Muir told The New York Times. And that dream has become an incredibly successful reality. How much do you know about the host of the program that, as Deadline reported, “topped all the networks in evening news viewership” for the 2019-2020 season? It’s time to tune into the untold truth of David Muir.

David Muir was a junior journalist

David Muir’s path to becoming a journalist began at age 12. “As a boy, I remember watching television news and hoping one day I would be lucky enough to have a job that would take me to far away places,” Muir told IES Abroad. He specifically watched the local nightly news in Syracuse anchored by Ron Curtis. According to The New York Times, Muir wrote to Curtis to ask how to get into the business of reporting the news on TV, and Curtis replied, “Competition in television news is keen. There is always room for the right person. It could be you.” Right away, Muir approached his station, WTVH, and earned himself an internship. He even interned “during Christmas vacations and over the summer. The staff charted his growth in pencil on a section of the newsroom wall.”

Muir also conducted interviews as a high school student. According to Syracuse.com, videos of Muir interviewing at this age feature him “wearing the braces and rocking a New Kids on the Block haircut.” But, despite a “geeky” voice, Muir commanded “the screen with ridiculous professionalism and playful polish.” Heather Rich Puchta, one of Muir’s lifelong friends remembered Muir always “knew he was going to be in New York City. He’d say, ‘I’m going to be the next Dan Rather.’ He knew.” Need more proof? Puchta also shared that for Halloween one year, a young Muir dressed up as a reporter and “tricked out in a trench coat.”

David Muir 'jumped at the chance' to study abroad

One surprising fact about David Muir is his command of the Spanish language. This is because in college, he “jumped at the chance to immerse himself in the language and culture of Spain by studying abroad at the University of Salamanca,” according to IES Abroad. As an aspiring young reporter, this cultural experience provided practice to a future career in world traveling to chase a story. Muir also told the organization that “studying abroad was a chance to take a break from my academic discipline and flex a different kind of muscle learning a language and exploring a tiny corner of the world I had never imagined I would temporarily call home.” He chose the university because of the “special allure given its age and beauty.” Plus, “I had been studying Spanish since high school.” Muir fondly looks back at his time in Spain and remembers “evenings watching the people of Salamanca stroll by with their families.”

Once his semester abroad ended, Muir returned to his undergraduate studies at Ithaca College. But he continued to study Spanish. “I still use it today,” Muir explained. For example, when ABC News teamed up with Univision for a “new cable network named Fusion,” Muir could use his extra language. “It’s been wonderful to use my Spanish again,” he admitted.

Ithaca College gave David Muir an honorary doctorate

Before he was a household name, David Muir attended Ithaca College and graduated magna cum laude. Even after becoming a wildly successful and famous news anchor, Muir keeps in touch with his alma mater. According to IES Abroad, Muir lends his support to “scholarships for journalism students at Ithaca College.”

In 2011, Muir returned to Ithaca for a prestigious role. He delivered the commencement speech and called upon his experiences as a reporter, Newswise recounted. Muir told a story about one of his trips to Egypt. While in Cairo, he interviewed a young woman in Tahrir Square who “had become one of the faces of freedom in Egypt.” As Muir explained, the woman “used Twitter and Facebook to help add to that revolution taking place in that square.” And as a result, Egypt’s “President Mubarak was forced out” only a few days later. Muir told the soon-to-be graduates that his role on TV isn’t the only way to create change in the world. “You don’t need a camera or a microphone to have a voice,” Muir said. 

Then, Ithaca College further acknowledged the anchor’s success by officially naming him Dr. Muir. The class of ’95 graduate received an honorary doctorate degree two decades after he earned his bachelor’s degree. 

David Muir became a world-class reporter

David Muir started interning at WTVH-TV in Syracuse and later earned his first full-time reporting job. There Muir learned one of the best pieces of advice in his life. Muir told The Washington Post that when a veteran reporter noticed he was having a hard time with a story, some words of wisdom were offered up. According to Muir, the senior employee said, “Well, to get the story, you’ve just got to get out there and get the story.” It seems like common sense, but Muir admitted it was an important tip “about just getting out of that newsroom. Getting into that cruiser and going to the story.” As a journalist in Syracuse, Muir earned the “Best Enterprise Reporting and Best Television Interview” honor from the Associated Press, according to ABC News. Next, Muir landed a job as a reporter for WCVB-TV in Boston and once again earned high praise from the Associated Press.

Muir explained that his trip to New Orleans to cover Hurricane Katrina left a lasting impression. In an interview for The New York Times, he recalled watching “the poor and dispossessed screaming for help” from the safety of a rental car. “I remember wanting to slouch down in the back seat because it felt like an invasion of their suffering,” Muir remembered. “But as difficult as it is — and as deep as the suffering might be that you’re witnessing — that camera lens in the window is going to give them a voice.”

A day in the life of David Muir

“There’s no such thing as a typical workday,” David Muir revealed to USA Today. Like so many people, the first thing the anchor does is check his phone. More specifically, phones. “I have more than one, which I think many people do in this business,” he explained. Muir reads the notes from his editors but also watches the news from his competitors “to see really what everyone’s reporting on and what people are talking about.” His days are filled with conversations with producers, meetings, and more research. “I can honestly say that this newscast is a living, breathing thing,” he confessed. And to Muir, it’s important to be thorough in all the preparation leading up to the early evening “if people are going to take time out of their own busy lives to watch us.”

For Muir, he said that the extensive background work hopefully breaks “through the noise.” He knows that many viewers have “been bombarded with tweets and abbreviated headlines on their smartphones and when they log in to their email all day long.” And how does Muir wake up and put in all this hard work every day? His energy is fueled in part by coffee. The anchor told Vanity Fair that his favorite vice is a “venti red eyes, i.e., 20-ounce Starbucks coffees with a shot of espresso.”

What is it like to replace Diane Sawyer?

In 2014, David Muir received his biggest promotion ever to lead anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight. And seeing as how his immediate predecessor was legendary journalist Diane Sawyer, he had some revered shoes to fill. Before then, starting in 2011, Muir was the weekend anchor on ABC World News with David Muir. “I often say that my job is to keep Diane’s chair warm two days a week. And it’s an honor to do that,” he told Syracuse.com during those years.

ABC News president James Goldston explained why Muir ultimately replaced the long-time seat held by Sawyer. “When Diane said she was ready to step down, it was essentially a non-decision,” Goldston told The Washington Post. The executive added that Muir, who was only 40 at the time, “was ready, and he glided into the chair.” And as far as why he thought Muir attracted so many viewers, Goldston cited the anchor’s attitude. “He brings tremendous empathy” and “a natural optimism,” Goldston said. One example is Muir’s closing series “America Strong.” In the segment, Muir “visits — and sometimes revisits — individuals who embody courage or otherwise warm the heart.”

David Muir is popular for his looks and his brains

As part of a long line of nightly journalists, David Muir belongs to a collection of classy men. And this means looking his best every evening in front of America. Esquire noted that his usual uniform features “trim dark suits; simple white shirts; solid dark ties. It’s a clean, modern look: not stodgy, but authoritative.” Muir described his personal style to Vanity Fair as “classic but understated.” This includes a classic suit-and-tie look on screen, mostly from Ermenegildo Zegna, the famous Italian suit maker. Outside of work, he wears jeans from the stylish French brand A.P.C. and “his signature sunglasses are Randolph gold-framed aviators.” What’s so special about this pair of shades? “I did a story on them,” Muir explained, “adding that part of the allure is the company’s decades-long contract with the United States Air Force.” Cinephiles may recognize Robert Redford in Spy Game with those same aviators.

Part of his inspiration comes from TV, though the fictional variety. Muir admitted to binge-watching the AMC series Mad Men because it “reminded him of his childhood in Syracuse.” And can you guess what sunglasses Jon Hamm’s lead character wore in the show? Randolph aviators. And as HuffPost noted,Muir’s stylish looks helped his case to be voted one of People‘s “Sexiest Men Alive” in 2014.

For David Muir, 'nothing' beats visiting home

In order to lead his popular show, David Muir is constantly working, which “does not leave much time for a personal life” according to Syracuse.com. As a result, the anchor “is single and wears all the appearances of being married to his job.” He reportedly didn’t even have enough time to keep a dog around the house. After just a week with a “schnauzer named Pryor,” Muir gave the pup to his sister Becky. 

That said, one of the more heartwarming characteristics about David Muir is his hometown and family love. “When I turn onto I-81 and drive into those hills, there’s nothing I love more than rolling those windows down. Nothing can match that feeling,” he told Vanity Fair about driving home to Syracuse.

Muir even thinks about his hometown and his parents who still live right outside of Syracuse when he reports the news. As he explained to The Washington Post, Muir thinks about viewers just like his parents in their small town. “I do think about what won’t waste their time, what will set their mind at ease,” Muir said. He also admitted “that his parents’ reactions to news stories probably affect his approach more than they realize.”

How did David Muir adapt to the global pandemic?

Like so many talk show hosts, David Muir needed to adapt to restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Most of these journalists were forced to begin working from home. And how does one produce a socially distant show? As reported by The Washington Post, “Muir has a broadcast-ready setup in his West Village home.” But most of the time, he goes into the office “every day to do the newscast in the eerily deserted ABC studio, along with a skeleton crew.” Muir admitted that “It’s a day-to-day decision” on whether to make the short trip to the studio. “But as long as I can come in, I will.”

The process is working because in July of 2020, “World News Tonight With David Muir led all shows on broadcast and cable for the week in total viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54,” as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. According to the outlet, no other “network nightly newscast has pulled off that triple in at least 28 years.” Muir told The Washington Post why he thought the ratings were so high, even amidst so much uncertainty in the world. “The answer to the anxiety people are feeling isn’t to deliver a portrait that is rosier than reality,” Muir explained. And the news anchor added, “When the pandemic hits is not the time to try to build up trust. It has to be in the works for a long time.”

Where in the world is David Muir?

Part of the job description as a lead anchor is exploring the world and bringing viewers along for the ride. “I’ve always believed in going where the story takes you, to be there and breathe it in,” David Muir explained to The Washington Post. The anchor reportedly feels that his popularity “has been built up over years in part by taking them along as he globe-trots.” For example, Muir “traveled to Iraq for reporting on the Islamic State” and to Auschwitz “to talk with survivors 75 years after their liberation.” In 2011, Muir had the honor to travel to South Africa to interview the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, as noted by Syracuse.com. Muir has also “been dispatched to hot spots such as Egypt, Haiti, Japan and post-Katrina New Orleans.”

For all his travels, Muir reelected on the story that most impacted him. As he explained to IES Abroad, “It is impossible to choose which story has had the most impact on me because so many of them have left me profoundly moved. It’s always the people.” He cited one specific example though, during a trip to “Ethiopia to report on an American doctor performing a simple cataract surgery.” Muir remembered witnessing “parents who had not seen their own children in years” after a successful operation. “I will never forget the mothers with tears streaming down their faces ululating the moment they could see again,” Muir confessed.

David Muir likes to stay active

It can undoubtedly become heavy to report the news on a daily basis. Outside of work, David Muir appears to clear his head through a few different hobbies. Muir played sports as a young boy, but admitted that his future career seemed to be a better fit. “I wasn’t nearly as good on the Little League field as I was in the newsroom,” he explained to USA Today, referencing his first internship at a TV station. As an adult, Muir told Vanity Fair he enjoys playing tennis. “My backhand is better than my forehand, which isn’t saying much,” he joked. And Muir confessed that he “bought his racket at an upstate Walmart.” To stay in shape, Muir likes to hit the gym and often hop on the treadmill. But while he’s breaking a sweat, Muir is also using the time to dive into another one of his hobbies, music. 

Muir confessed to loving the “Teen Party” playlist on Spotify. “It sounds ridiculous,” Muir admitted. But he went on to explain that those curated songs are “what everyone will be listening to in a few months.” Another one of his favorite Spotify playlists is the “Global Top 50” that helps “power me through my run or my workout,” Muir told USA Today. His tastes range from Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello to a cover by Whitney Houston and Kygo. “Every day, I find a new song that I love,” the anchor added.

How much is David Muir worth?

David Muir’s success on TV is astounding. According to Syracuse.com, he was “the most-watched news anchor in America for the fourth year in a row, leading ABC News’ “World News Tonight” to its first win across the top demos for the first time in 24 years.” The program reportedly earned the number one spot in the “2019-20 TV ratings season with an average of 9.385 million total viewers.” And how do all these viewers translate into a salary for Muir? According to Celebrity Net Worth, the anchor reportedly makes “$5 million per year as host of ABC World News Tonight.” This puts Muir’s net worth at an estimated $20 million. 

With his big paycheck, Muir decided to pick up a piece of land for some peace of mind. As reported by Syracuse.com, the anchor purchased a “$7 million home on Skaneateles Lake,” one of the Finger Lakes. It also happens to be right near his sister and her husband who “run an organic farm” in the same area. “This job takes me all over the world, and I can’t think of a better place to catch my breath,” Muir explained about his purchase. “It’s always been my dream to spend more time back home with family,” he added.

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