On Wednesday, I wrote about comments made by Les Moonves to explain the failure thus far of their new anchor, Katie Couric, to attract viewers. Did he blame himself for hiring Couric? No. Did he blame CBS for producing a lousy news broadcast that sent viewers scrambling for their remotes? No. He blamed the viewers for their sexist attitudes.
Today, the New York Post prints my column blasting Moonves for ducking responsibility for the low ratings and shifting blame to the CBS audience:
"I'm sort of surprised by the vitriol against her. The number of people who don't want news from a woman was startling," Moonves told his audience.
Got that, America? It's not Katie's fault, and it's not that CBS stinks at putting together a compelling news show. It's that you're all a bunch of misogynistic bigots.
CBS has a problem, all right - but it isn't audience chauvinism, it's management cluelessness.
I've watched the show a few times, shortly after the switch, mostly out of curiosity. Couric isn't awful, but she's not very good either. The big problem with the show was the lack of news, or at least it was at the time. CBS dumbed the show down, apparently hoping that would attract Couric's former audience -- but just because people want to start their day out with lighter fare like "Today" doesn't mean they want the same from their evening news.
Had CBS just retooled the show and kept their collective mouths shut, Couric may have found an audience. One or two blockbuster interviews could have turned the ratings around; look at what the Hugh Grant interview did for Jay Leno, after he finally fired his out-of-control manager and found his footing on the Tonight Show. Jay, however, didn't go out on the circuit and blame his initial poor performance against David Letterman on some supposed anti-Italian bigotry of NBC's late-night audience. He and NBC fixed the problems, and the audience rediscovered him.
It may be too late now for Couric and Moonves to do that. They have created a lot of antagonism in the people they supposedly want to attract. Viacom may want to send Moonves to a public-relations skills course or two in the immediate future.