Saturday, June 16, 2007

ON DAN, KATIE, CAMPBELL, STONE, PAULA AND THE REST OF THEM

There has been lots of movement in TV news lately in the States.

A few weeks ago Stone Phillips got the boot over at NBC (tossed from his Dateline NBC gig due to cuts), and I thought seriously that I should do a post speculating on who might be next. And I thought at that time the two leading candidates to get the boot next were Katie Couric (big surprise) and Paula Zahn, because both women's ratings for their shows were in the toilet. Turns out I was wrong on both counts, because the next person to leave turned out to be Sharyn Alfonsi, from CBS. Rumor is she's leaving for another network. Anyway, Couric and Zahn are in big trouble.

The word from TVNewser is that disgusted NBC News correspondent Campbell Brown is fed up being passed over for jobs at downsizing NBC, and has defected to CNN. The other word is that Paula Zahn's show is getting the boot and will probably be replaced by Lou Dobbs, clearing an hour of the schedule to make way for another show that Campbell might host. Or something. Anyway Campbell is on the way in and Paula is on the way down, and out. So count Paula Zahn as someone who is in the next-to-go betting.

As for poor, hapless Katie Couric, the big controversy this week has been over Dan Rather's comments that the CBS Evening News is being dumbed down for the masses and "tarted up", and Rather voiced his objections over Today Show news-lite values taking over the CBS Evening News. CBS honcho Les Moonves immediately shot back with accusations of sexism.

Look, I don't think Rather was being sexist. I hear CBS scream "sexism" every time someone criticizes their soft-news approach over there, and it's getting old. What Rather is really getting at is that CBS News tried to change the style of their evening news show to make it more like the Today Show in terms of story selections and so on. And he hates it! He think's it's a departure from his style of traditional news values! Well, all I will say is this is the typical arrogant attitude we get from these hard-news type people. There is nothing new about this rant. Rather would have trashed Larry King's interview with Angelina Jolie given the chance. It's got nothing to do with sexism. It's the traditional duel between the hard news folks and the soft news/celebrity/tabloid artist news reporters--- people like Geraldo, Deborah Norville, everyone on the legal beat (ie. Greta Van Susteren), much of the Fox News crowd including Shepard Smith, and uh, Katie .

I don't think the controversy over Couric is a gender issue. Instead, it's a values issue. Rightly or wrongly Katie is associated with soft news and soft interviews. The CBS Evening News got off on the wrong foot upon her arrival with the long-form interviews and that stupid segment where people wasted time spouting off their opinions. And they are getting killed in the ratings by the competing hard-news approaches at ABC and NBC. Katie is in trouble because they are getting killed every night. And the hard news people are saying "I told you so" and are crowing about it, and putting more gasoline on the already out-of-control fire that is burning around Katie Couric. I still think Katie's in deep trouble. All I will say is it sucks to be in TV news right now. Especially if you are female and over 40.

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