Sunday, September 03, 2006

Katie Couric--A Sign of the Times?

It may be a bit too much to ask, but couldn't we have found a journalist? I am not a "Katie Basher" per se. But how does a cute, hair-bobbed, cherubic, dilettante go from cooking segments and good morning wishes (which she did arguably very well) to anchoring the evening news? Even the word "Anchor" implies a sense of weighted intellect, experienced judgment, and even-handed repose sufficient to form the nucleus of serious journalism. For all of Katie's talents--real, supposed, or imagined--there is little to convince us that she has the right stuff.

Well, the answer is an easy one and a common lament--ratings. Katie has been an early morning ratings juggernaut and the brass at CBS are hoping that Katie's debut at the helm of the evening news--long after the effects of morning coffee have worn-off the bleary-eyed viewing public--will drag a subset of her loyal followers into CBS's prime-time lineup. Actually, this is pretty good marketing. But it is not good journalism at all.

There will be unending hype and a slew of underappreciated "producers" who will serve as her galley-slaves--rowing the ship of serious news (or as close to serious news as CBS can muster) while Katie wears her new string of serious pearls, a new "do", and a wardrobe of carefully chosen "grown-up" clothes which still feel and look a little foreign on her. Maybe she will even succeed. But the measure of success is not likely to be taken in real journalistic achievement. Rather, it will be measured in rating-book basis points and market share.

All of those folks doing all of that rowing--and so the word "anchor" takes on a whole new meaning.

I cannot resist one parting dig before I sign off: It is not that Katie Couric and CBS look at the world through rose-colored glasses. It is that their glasses are missing a lens on the right side--and the left one needs to be cleaned. Good luck Katie.

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