May 10, 2007

Katie Couric, America's Sweetest Victim

CBS News hired morning-show star Katie Couric as their nightly news anchor in the hope that a fresh face and a lighter touch on hard news would rejuvenate the Tiffany Network's dime-store ratings. So far, she has made quite an impact -- by driving the numbers to lows not seen in twenty years. Now Couric faces criticism and the network a lot of questions over their choice, and one CBS executive thinks she knows where the problem lies:

Brian Montopoli: You told me, a little while back, that you were "the first woman at every job I had at CBS News." And that includes in 1971, when you were the first female field producer for The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite. I'm curious your take on Katie Couric's experience as the first solo female nightly news anchor.

Linda Mason: I'm just surprised at how, almost 30 years after I worked on the "Evening News" as the first woman producer, that Katie is having such a tough time being accepted by the public, which seems to prefer the news from white guys, and now that Charlie's doing so well, from older white guys. I guess they want the reassurance of a Walter Cronkite.

I had no idea that a woman delivering the news would be a handicap. And I'm afraid that Katie's paying a price for being the first woman. But I think it's a great trail that she's blazing, and I think if the broadcast continues to be as good as it has been, if we continue to break news, if we continue to tell interesting stories, people will start to watch. It takes time, I think. But I was surprised that there was an obvious connection between a woman giving the news, and the audience wanting to watch it.

Got that, America? Its not Katie's fault, and it's not that CBS stinks at putting together a compelling news show. We're all a bunch of misogynistic bigots.

Of course, the career of this gentleman might address the race card that Mason blithely tosses to protect her network's incompetence. Bernard Shaw spent twenty years at CNN, taking the news network from a blip to the point where it eclipsed news organizations like CBS. During that time, plenty of women had handled anchor desk duties at other times of their 24-hour news programming, and it didn't seem to slow down CNN's progress one whit.

In truth, Couric has had to pay for CBS' poor editorial sense over the past several years. The nadir came in September 2004, when CBS allowed Mary Mapes and Dan Rather to first air a hit piece on George Bush during the presidential campaign based on laughably false documents, and then defending them while their story fell apart. Their integrity smashed, CBS limped along for the next two years while Rather continued to repel viewers and Bob Schieffer could not entice them back.

When they hired Couric, CBS obviously hoped to score some points by making her gender relevant. Les Moonves compared Couric to Jackie Robinson, which initiated gag reflexes around the nation. When she took over the news, CBS softened it to make it fit their new anchor -- and in a way patronizing her and their audience, which responded in an utterly predictable manner. They started watching other news programs for the better production and journalistic values.

CBS now wants to blame its audience for the network's failures. Edward R Murrow must be rolling in his grave.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Katie Couric, America's Sweetest Victim:

» If you’re not watching Couric, the problem is YOU? from The Anchoress
Ed Morrissey has a great piece up looking at the latest nonsense coming out of CBS about Katie Couric’s dismal failures at CBS News. As Ed points out, “So far, she has made quite an impact — by driving the numbers to lows not seen in... [Read More]

Comments (32)

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 10, 2007 9:20 PM

In a day and age when Barbara Walters has LONG been one of the most powerful forces in EVENING Broadcast News, and remains one, this is a pathetic excuse for this bitch's failure to perform under pressure.

Names like Diane Sawyer, Jessica Savitch, and others, including how well Connie Chung did until she stuck her foot too far down her own throat a few too many times...

This is a pathetic attempt to shove responsibility for Katie's failure to perform onto other people.

In any other case of one not the Left MSM's darling, the charge would be "The Camera Doesn't Lie"!

Posted by Fred [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 10, 2007 9:41 PM

White guys, huh? Like Dan Rather?

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 10, 2007 9:45 PM

Once in awhile the authentic Katie Couric popped up. In this case, on the Today Show several years ago. I choose this example because for some reason I was watching the Today Show at the time. It's much clearer with the visual--Couric's nervous eyes and body language telling Whoopi, "please, no, you're going to get me in trouble here...."

A Guide to the Political Left: KATIE COURIC

Couric conducted a friendly interview with actress Whoopi Goldberg, during which the topic came to Goldberg's views on abortion. While opining about the importance of protecting women's "freedom of choice," Goldberg alluded to an occasion when she and Couric had once "marched together" in an abortion-rights demonstration. At that point, Couric interrupted, giggling: "Nooo. I'm not allowed to do that" [a reference to the purported neutrality that journalists are expected to maintain on social issues and news events]. Goldberg replied humorously, "Oh no, that's right. We have not marched together. It was somebody who looked like you. Uh, I forget where I am sometimes."

Posted by George [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 10, 2007 9:49 PM

Does anyone remember Lynn Russell? I thought she was great. That was back when CNN Headline News was actually half decent and was growing in popularity.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 10, 2007 10:03 PM

Gosh, I'm old enough to remember when TV sets were black and white. And, screens were small.

I also remember that the TV grabbed people's attention, enough; that it closed down the afternoon newspapers. In other words? People read, sometimes standing up, on their ways to work. But in the evening they no longer wanted another newspaper.

(See? There was "weakness." Before the "weakness" became as apparant as it is, today.)

And, you can't compare men to women.

When Walter was "king" of C-BS hot-air; I'm sure, if Marilyn Monroe, wanted; he'd have let her try it out. I mean; reading the news off the teleprompter. But it's live. It goes out live. And, you can't take back a blooper. Marilyn? Couldn't have carried the show from day to day. But not because of being a female. She just wasn't the "work horse" needed.

Katie Couric looked good ONLY to idiotic executives; who are looking for ways to surprise their staffs. They really don't think in terms of clunkers. And, more than C-BS' Moonves thought through Imus' firing.

How so? Imus is suing for $120 million, without having to do another day's work. He just has to make sure he has enough money (and the truth is he has more than enough money), to wait out the postponements lawyers use to freeze you out of a good set of circumstances.

Katie Couric could NOT solve what SHE DID NOT CREATE! She's older, now. Those 30 years of experience were putting her in line for retirement. When in came Moonves, who thought he was gonna break NBC's ratings. And, he did no such thing.

HEY, it's not the first time that people with more money than brains have made plans, where you could question their wisdom. But they gamble just the same. The Saud's do. George Soros does.

But you could learn a thing or two. It's not that apitizing.

Katie Couric was a terrible bet.

But Moonves? He thought all those anchors were expensive. SO he also probably thought by buying a very expensive (aging) female anchor his news show would sail up in the silly ratings.

Monty Python did all the routines you need to have seen, to know how these stupid decisions come about.

The bigger surprise? Only after Couric is a ratings disaster, did C-BS think it had toodled off in the wrong direction.

While I think they were in enough trouble, that if they had a Walter Cronkite look-alike constest, this too would have failed for them.

Maybe, to improve ratings they should adopt the "American Idol" principle? Use the same news. Have four or five different ambitious idiots read this stuff from the telepromter. And, let Americans call in.

The process of getting Americans "involved" might have made the difference.

Otherwise? Maybe, they could have asked Donald Trump to anchor their news? He could deliver the news and add commentary, ya know? And, he'd be more interesting than Katie Couric.

Well, maybe, if Captain Ed tried out? Go laugh. But what America CRAVES is a voice from the right. And, he can start his shows by saying "all aboard."

No. I'm not kidding. But free advice is hardly ever taken.

I bet to be entertained at C-BS, though. There's been people involved in pools. Who gambled these results before you saw them.

And, if nothing else? Drudge ALWAYS leads off his columns with the news of how badly Katie Couric is doing. He should pay fees. C-BS, would earn some of its money back.

Posted by jaeger51 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 10, 2007 10:07 PM

Gee, maybe it's not Katie, maybe it's the relentless lefty propaganda? Ya think? Or maybe it's just the changing of the times....wonder who's on Ed Sullivan this week? Lol......

Posted by Andrew Burton | May 10, 2007 10:08 PM

misogynistic, good word

Posted by hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 1:07 AM

Couric, is boring, unprofessional, obviously biased, and unconvcing.
But it is the audience's fault.
lol@ the lazy self-absorbed press.
In the UK, they do not allow the news readers to pretend they are some sort of special prophet or authority. Couric proves why it should be that way every day.

Posted by Adjoran [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 2:06 AM

Couric is simply not a "news" person by any traditional definition of the term. She made her bones by being the perky, cheery, LiteNews™ reader on The Today Show. She kept their ratings lead, so CBS saw her as the Cash Cow who could restore ratings to their Evening News.

Sorry, but no sale. Her attempts to draw in younger viewers, and in particular single females, haven't worked, and the furthering "softening" of the newscast alienated long-time viewers. At $18 million or so a year, she is drawing Roger Clemons money, without the prospects of victories the Rocket brings with him.


Carol ~ The demise of the afternoon daily was more due to social changes. For the factory shift worker, the morning papers arrived too late to read as they got ready for and went to work. Afternoon papers came out as they were getting off, and catered to this more blue-collar audience.

As productivity gains meant we produced as much with fewer workers, the market for afternoon papers dwindled. To some extent, the surviving morning dailies were helped by the demise of the PM competition, but they were unable to convert enough of the market even to compensate for their own steady losses of circulation.

Television is a factor in declining newspaper readership mainly insofar as it distracts from reading in general. The numbers have never been impressive, though. At one time, in 1975 - the peak year for newspaper circulation, nearly two-thirds of adult Americans read at least one newspaper daily.

None of the TV news shows reaches so much as 3% of the total population (less % of adults) today. The newspaper readers didn't, for the most part, go to TV news; they just stopped reading - newspapers, and most everything else, as well.

Posted by docjim505 | May 11, 2007 4:05 AM

I recall CNN hiring the actress Andrea Thompson to be an anchor a few years back. That didn't work out, either. Could it be that American news consumers are interested in, you know, THE NEWS and feel that their intelligence is being insulted when a network so obviously and blatantly hires an anchor solely for looks?

"Watch our program because, gosh-darn it! our anchor is just so cute!"

Posted by rob | May 11, 2007 5:24 AM

laughingly, the MSM still refuses to to see why no one is watching them anymore: its bias, pure and simple. The tragedy is that their minds are so blinded with leftist beliefs that they can't understand why fewer and fewer people are getting their news elsewhere. It's not the vehicle they don't like, it's the pollution that spews out of its orifice that offends people.

Posted by HA [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 6:33 AM

Not to mention the fact that Couric is more of an entertainer than a serious journalist.

I have a suggestion. Maybe Katie Couric can join The View, and Rosie O'Donnell can take over the anchor position at CBS News. I think this would improve the quality and ratings of both shows.

Posted by Stone | May 11, 2007 6:38 AM

Katie Couric is a victim. A victim I tell you!

Posted by Don Smythe | May 11, 2007 7:07 AM

How much of CBS' motivation in hiring Katie Couric was to wound today, NBC's biggest (only) big money-maker? I never watched her on Today, but she often comes across as snarky on the Evening News. And can someone at CBS tell her to keep her social life out of the papers. If she wants to be treated as a serious journalist, shots of she and her boy toy aren't the way to go (She can date whoever she wants, but Les Moonves doesn't need shots of his No. 1 news person on Page 6 - it makes it hard to treat her as a serious news person when she makes more news for her off-air activities than for what she's doing on the show).

CBS' problem isn't only Katie, though she hasn't helped. It's the slavish devotion to a legacy format that's dying. The Evening News is a program whose time has come and gone. I couldn't bribe my kids (HS and college-age) to watch anyone's evening news (or read a paper, for that matter). Just check out the advertisers on the Katie Show to see what the demographic is.

Katie's political leakage doesn't help - watch the newscast for a week and it's obvious the way the show tilts. And the quality of the show is awful - there's little "news." Lots of medical stuff, soft features, etc.that would be better done in the morning.

In all, it's a perfect storm: Bad product, unpopular anchor and a format that has outlived its time.

Posted by thekobrakommander | May 11, 2007 7:11 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Connie Chung on the CBS Evening News as a gimmick to try to prop up Dan Rather? It was certainly more successful than the sweater-vest experiment. Besides, she had legitimacy as an anchor; she'd anchored evening news at KNXT. And before anyone claims she was somehow put in the back seat by the co-anchor position, keep in mind NBC did the same to Roger Mudd and Tom Brokaw

Posted by fdcol63 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 7:23 AM

I just want the news REPORTED, as objectively as possible. I don't care what race, gender, religion, or sexual preference the announcer/anchorperson is or holds.

Sure, I expect this person to have his or her own views and perspectives, as we all do. And I know this bias will come out in SOME way no matter how "objective" they appear on the surface, either through their vocal tone, facial expressions, or the content of the stories they report.

But Couric, as was Rather before her, is nothing but a shrill, highly partisan lapdog for the Democratic Party.

The rest of the American public knows this, too, and are voting with their remote controls.

Posted by Roy E | May 11, 2007 7:26 AM

Networks (broadcast and cable) seem interested in every gimmick other than building credibility.

Why even bother with them any more?

Posted by What? | May 11, 2007 7:26 AM

Ah, so easy to claim sexism in a vacuum. Here's a way to test the "misogynistic bigot" therory:

Give Katie Couric's job to a different woman. One like, say, Fox News' E.D. Hill, Lauren Green or Alisyn Camarota.

Then, when ratings go through the roof, the usual elitist scolds will have to remove the "misogynistic" part. "Bigots," well, that's something all independent thinkers will have to unfairly contend with forever, or at least until the old hippies all die off.

Posted by Faith1 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 7:32 AM

I don't know if I would lay this at Katie's feet. Not entirely, and in some ways it IS the audience's fault. It's the audience's fault for not buying the same crappy product we've been shoveled for the last few decades. Now that "the news" is not the sole product--bent, folded and mutilated to portray the slant of their politics--of the Big 3 they can't compete. We've been force fed our vegetables all these years only now, via other sources, we've discovered cake and ice cream and realized there are much better things than the propaganda they've been broadcasting.

Katie's just the lipstick on a pig.

Posted by syn [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 7:36 AM

Katie's problem isn't that she's a woman, anchor, her problem is that she's a feminist anchor.

Every time a feminist opens her mouths I cry for the loss of Womanhood.

Posted by Neo [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 7:36 AM

white guys

Sounds racist.

Posted by Mister Snitch! | May 11, 2007 7:49 AM

Well, of COURSE it's the audience's fault! If it was the fault of this executive, or Couric, people would have to lose their jobs. And we can't have that!

Posted by rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 7:49 AM

Obviously the government is going to have to mandate that we all watch Katie Couric, just to ensure we don't get all our news from white guys reading teleprompters.

Though, actually, who actually watches the evening news anymore?

Posted by BarCodeKing [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 7:59 AM

"Nightly News." That's SOOOO 1980s. Back in the day, before 24-hour cable news networks and the Internet, if you wanted to know what was going on in the world, you had your choice of your local evening newspaper (because most towns had a morning paper and an evening paper) or the national broadcast news from one of three networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, whose editorial viewpoints were as identical as peas in a pod. That was your news, take it or leave it, from the gatekeepers who were the priesthood of the news. They had a monopoly, and they knew it. That's not true any more. Now the "nightly news" broadcast is an anachronism mostly watched by the elderly. I haven't watched a "nightly news" broadcast in years. I can get my news any time of the day or night, and in other ideological flavors than New York Liberal. And the media hates it like hell. But you can't put the genie back in the bottle, with hundreds of channels narrowcasting to individual tastes and thousands of news sites on the Internet for those unwilling to accept the liberal orthodoxy from the television networks. We don't need you, Katie. You're dinosaur media walking.

Posted by kim | May 11, 2007 8:08 AM

the problem is CBS and their liberal and biased slant, but the bigger problem is Katie. She is soft. I am a women, but I don't want to hear the news from a soft spoken, shy acting women. It's the way she presents. Barbara Walters never acted soft. Greta Van Susteren doesn't come across as someone who should be at home full time breast feeding a baby. Katie belongs on a morning show where the main audience are stay-at-home emotional moms. I'm sorry if any feminists out there are offended by this. Ok, I'm not really sorry. They need a strong personality. They should call Ann Coulter. (Before you beat up on me, I'm a stay-at-home mom, so who would know better.) Maybe she should try the View.

Posted by Gunga | May 11, 2007 8:08 AM

If her ratings had gone up, would anyone have dared to suggest that it had anything to do with her being a woman?

I'd be willing to bet that if CBS had given the job to Oprah, the ratings would be through the roof...but then, they couldn't afford her...

Posted by Jim | May 11, 2007 8:22 AM

Lynne Russell did a great job as a news reader. She left CNN in 2001 but is now living in Canada and working at CBC

Posted by Fenrisulven [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 9:13 AM

CBS still doesn't get it. Mary Mapes was considered "brilliant" by her "peers", but under scrutiny revealed herself to be a stupid partisan hack. Her book makes it even worse - its up to the skeptics to verify the accuracy of her story, not the other way around? This is what they teach at journalism school? And if someone as dumb and unethical as Mapes could climb that far into CBS, how many others are still there?

And look beyond the forged docs - whats more revealing is the arrogant and clumsy way CBS pushed and then defend them. People who cheat usually get caught because they grow complacent - over time, the husband stops investing energy in the deception, stops showering at the gym after his trysts, stops checking his collar for lipstick, etc. He's been cheating for so long that he gets lazy. As with CBS - we basically caught our spouse audaciously cheating in our own bedroom, and we're supposed to believe this is the first time?

No, the arrogance and carelessness of Mapes and Rather revealed that CBS has been cheating us for a very long time. Couric is fluff, an innane lightweight, but CBS's is tanking because they have lost all credibility. Perkiness is not going to bring us back.

Posted by Fenrisulven [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 9:20 AM

/hat tip to my old home, hope all is well with you Cap'n

CBS Lies

Posted by MathMom [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 9:48 AM

When I lived overseas and had access to the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) the morning shows from NBC, ABC and CBS came on, one after the other, in the late afternoon and evening, commercial-free. There were times when I'd have the TV on for all three, and could compare them without channel-hopping – just watch what they had on offer. From this comparison, I came to loathe the Today show and Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric, because of their Junior-High level, popular-student nastiness to their guests. There were many times when they'd interview a person right on their set, then during the break when in the US the local weather would come on, (but they were still on their set doing "content") they’d laugh at or ridicule the person they’d just interviewed, while he was probably still in earshot leaving the set. This would not be seen in the States, but it certainly told me a lot about their character, and it was not a nice story.

By comparison, during the same break for local news, Good Morning America hosts Charlie Gibson and Joan Lunden would chat amiably to each other, perhaps discussing the prior interview, but with respect for their guests. They seemed like really nice people, in stark contrast to the juveniles at Today.

There are two scenarios in particular that I recall, which to me said all I needed to know about Gumbel and Couric, both afflicted by arrested development. During a faux-concerned reading of a story about a man who received a paper cut which caused a systemic infection requiring limb amputation for the victim, Couric did her “oh-this-is-so-sad” face. Then, they cut to the break for US stations to weigh in, but they were still on camera, and Bryant started laughing so hard that a paper cut causing such a terrible affliction to the poor victim, that tears were rolling down his cheeks. He was laughing! From then on, whenever he would appear on camera with one of his really bad coldsores on his lip, I would indulge in some schadenfreude myself, and enjoy that this foppish poseur had an embarrassing sore which could not be covered by makeup.

Similarly, I remember the Couric interviews, where she frequently appeared so bored with the interview that she just phoned it in, reading her list of questions without truly interacting with her guest. One morning she was interviewing Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie) about all of her work in TV and movies. Barbara had just said that she had worked hard to choose roles for herself that would keep her from being typecast as Jeannie, and told of her large body of work that was not Jeannie. Immediately Couric, who had evidently not taken her Ritalin that morning, asked her how she handled the fact that she was typecast as Jeannie. Barbara Eden looked at her with a “huh??” look on her face, and her jaw dropped slightly. I don’t even recall Eden’s answer, but it was gracious when she should have said something pointed about listening to your guest when you do an interview.

Couric thinks it’s “time” for a woman anchor, and that she is somehow entitled to the position. In truth, she’s done a bad job of it, and because she’s a woman she’s turned the clock back for many competent women who could run rings around her in the same job. She is failing because of her sense of entitlement, and her contempt for her audience. Who would want to invite a person with that sort of attitude problem into their house after a long day at work?

Posted by Ripper [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 10:49 AM

Someone recently commented to the effect that "we don't want to hear about the outbreak of World War III by someone named "Katie.' "

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 11, 2007 11:54 AM

"If it takes a woman" to present the news; then she should be up there on a gynecological table, with her legs spread apart. OR WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE A WOMAN PRESENTER? Huh?

The idea that jobs are doled out because you stood in line; reminds me, in 1996, when Dole was given the chance to run against Clinton. Why? Well, they said, "he stood in line and he waited his turn."

The market place is not kind to people who feel entitled.

Heck, you can't even become Pope because you're the oldest guy in the room! Or you speak the most languages. You're still going to be selected from the group as a whole. That's the nature of weeding processes.

Katie Couric, however, looked like a winner to Moonves. While Don Imust "looked like a loser."

Now? Don Imus is suing for $120 million dollars. For wrongful termination. So we might find out that "contracts mean something?" (The FCC has already said he broke no rules with ho-ho-ho. And, they've never stopped rap from being disgorged on the airwaves.) We live in a free society.

Setting standards? We choose.

Obviously, after spending many millions of dollars, Katie Couric has not delivered ADVERTISING DOLLARS.

You think this is a female problem? Once, NBC said the same stuff to David Letterman. So he left one nutwork for another. While nobody really ever replaced Johnny Carson.

The biggest mistake Moonves made? From the avove selection, in terms of cost, it's hard to top him. But mentioning Jonny Carson's name, should give you a clue. See? They had this show, done by Jack Parr. Who was tops to watch. But a tad unstable. Then, they had somebody else, whose name I can't even remember. But they also had VIEWERS.

It was a big deal for there to be TV on after the 11:PM news went off the air. Johnny Carson? He was this hick kid. And, back in the old days you could come on, and keep trying out new formats. Until something clicks.

Like romance. It doesn't always hit ya on the head.

But today's executives? So highly paid they're no longer mingling with the usual stream of folk who buy this stuff, and tune the shows in. You really shouldn't be sending people like that out on talent searches!