Wednesday, December 13, 2006

THE EMBATTLED KATIE COURIC

Well the CAIRNS BLOG continues our live continuing coverage of the woes of embattled CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric.

It's still getting killed, that newscast. Apparently ABC has been battling NBC for the lead and has started beating it on most nights recently. CBS is not only running third but doing worse than it did under Bob Schieffer, and Katie's newscast is running seventh in Los Angeles, according to Drudge. That's pretty bad.

Read this article from Jon Friedman in Marketwatch and he comes up with the lamest excuse ever for why the CBS Evening News is doing so badly. He says:

America wasn't truly ready for the first solo woman evening-news anchor, let alone someone smart and attractive with pretensions to sounding puckish and hip (at one point, K-Cour quipped that she'd sign off each night with this line: "Peace out, homies!")

The folks at TVNewser have had a field day, with e-mailers reacting angrily to this line of bull. "In response to Jon Friedman, maybe America, shockingly, is not ready for any woman or man to present the evening news as if it's Entertainment Tonight," was a pretty typical response. Another response was to say that anyone else could have done better, like Diane Sawyer or Campbell Brown or whomever.

I think it's a copout for people to say America isn't ready for a woman anchor. That's a load of nonsense. I'm sure the folks at CBS could find someone with credibility who is a female, who could report on international events and politics and the rest of it. The problem is that these networks are putting in there women who have no clue about these things! Katie Couric always looks to me like someone completely uncomfortable with hard news stories, especially political stories. And Elizabeth Vargas was the same way over at ABC. She seemed to concentrate on doing women's stories and health stories and the like--- she seemed kind of uncomfortable with the politics and the rest of it.

Why Diane Sawyer isn't anchoring the evening news anywhere is a big mystery to me. I can't believe ABC was willing to give Vargas a shot and not Sawyer. I also can't believe CBS didn't try and lure Sawyer over to the anchor chair- after all, she has a history with that network, having worked there earlier. What's most baffling is that she'd be able to do international stories and political stories! Don't let all those celebrity interviews she's done fool you: she actually knows politics, this woman. A lot of people don't know this but Diane Sawyer actually worked in politics for a while. She worked in the Nixon White House and then helped work on Nixon's memoirs after he left office. So she seems like someone able to do those types of big stories.

Yet here she is, rotting away on Good Morning America interviewing celebrities and other idiots, while Katie Couric is blowing it on the evening news. Life is not fair for Diane Sawyer. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if something big happens--- like maybe CBS dumps Katie and sends her to the Early Show, and they give Diane the anchor chair for the evening news.

Could happen. Heck, these folks are after ratings here. Diane's contract is up soon, too, I understand.

In the meantime, Katie keeps on treading water with her newscast, which some people say is getting newsier. To me, though, it's like what happened with the Jay Leno Tonight Show. Leno took over from the legendary Johnny Carson, and the first week sucked, and it sucked for months, and ratings went down and it took a long time for them to come back. People were comparing Leno's show, unfavorably, to Johnny Carson. Leno came very close to being fired, in fact. The producers, though, did get fired and probably deserved it, based on the stuff I read in Bill Carter's book The Late Shift. It sounded like that show was in chaos.

The difference is that in spite of all the problems, Leno was still in first place. Lemme tell you, it's easier to survive when you are running in first place. Katie, though, is in third place. Moreover, as managing editor she's called a lot of the shots and okayed certain hires. She's put her own head on the line, too, in addition to the producers who have made a hash of that show. It's a tough spot to be in.

Couric is getting some strange support from unusual places, though. One person coming to her defence is that former female anchor of the CBS Evening News, Connie Chung. She's saying lay off of Katie already, and saying Couric is a pioneer in this field and give her time.

Well, all I will say about that is that an endorsement from that notorious much-hated tabloid artist wife of Maury Povich is the kiss of death for Katie. All the hard-news people hate Connie's guts. So an endorsement from Connie Chung is just gonna mean more trouble for Katie, who already is in deep trouble with these uptight, serious-journalism types of people.

The reason she is in trouble is all because there's a perception out there that her show is too soft. What Americans want from their newscasts isn't soft news, but hard news about all the troubles in the world. And the perception is that the CBS Evening News isn't delivering on that--- instead, it's seen as a newsmagazine pretending to be a newscast.

This show has a long way to go to get taken seriously again, folks, and Connie Chung isn't helping any. Katie has got to be muttering in disgust: "thanks for nothing, Connie!!!"

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