Katie Couric, Dropping Anchor?

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Even though I’ve been away from it for a while now, I still read the web sites and blogs that focus on the business of television news and what I’m reading a lot about these days is the inescapable conclusion that the expensive Katie Couric experiment on the CBS evening news has been a magnificent failure and is mercifully coming to an end well short of her 5 year 75 million dollar contract and ratings that have sunk to the lowest they’ve ever been for that once prestigious broadcast. It’s something I predicted when I first heard that CBS was trying to lure her away from the Today Show.
Katie Couric. Is she pulling up anchor?What was the network brass thinking two years ago when they brought her aboard? Did they really believe this popular perky morning show maven was the best choice to restore the Tiffany network’s reputation which was becoming more tarnished each year with Dan Rather sitting in the anchor chair..a chair vacated by the great Walter Cronkite who was forced out because he’d reached the mandatory retirement age of 65?
(A policy that obviously changed at CBS when the crew of 60 Minutes all began qualifying for the senior discount at the International House of Pancakes.)
I don’t know of anyone in the business who thought Katie Couric had the right stuff for the job..and GENDER has nothing to do with it.
I do think CBS execs had in mind that she could deliver more women viewers..but bad is bad and it doesn’t matter if it’s a woman or a man.
I have nothing against Couric. I know she’s gone through trials in her personal life and is a wonderful caring person. She was popular and pretty good on TV in the morning but as a network news anchor..well it just didn’t wash.It’s not like she was blazing new trails here. There have been women network anchors before. In the mid-seventies Barbara Walters was also a morning show host and celebrity interviewer who switched networks to co-anchor the ABC 5:30 news with Harry Reasoner. It was a disaster too. The story is that old Harry absolutely resented Barbara being there and it was painfully obvious on the air.
That’s probably true but I also think another big reason the experiment didn’t work is because viewers want to see an experienced news journalist in the anchor spot not someone whose claim to fame was talking to Paul Newman about his blue eyes, or trying to get celebrities to cry on camera or asking them what kind of tree they think they’re most like.
Back in the late 70’s early 80’s, NBC’s Jessica Savitch appeared well on her way to moving from anchoring weekends to weekdays. She had a certain something that appealed to viewers. I think journalistic integrity had a lot to do with it. But Savitch’s career was cut short by a fatal automobile accident.
I’ve always felt that Leslie Stall had the right stuff for anchoring especially news knowledge and trustworthyness. In fact, she has filled-in lots of times and done a great job. But, like most of her 60 Minutes colleagues, she’s had her AARP card for a long long time and would probably be considered too old for the job.
One of those news web sites I mentioned earlier showed a poll asking whether or not Katie Couric should go. It was something like 70 percent yes.   Just about the same number felt she shouldn’t have been made anchor in the first place.
It’s not Couric’s fault. Who can blame her for accepting the offer, the challenge and the money?It’s just that none of the CBS bosses, nor Couric herself, seemed to grasp what most of the TV watching public had figured out after a few weeks on the air. It was not a good fit and it was not going to work.
That same poll also asked who should be chosen to anchor the CBS evening news?
I’ll tell you that Bob Schieffer..who increased the ratings for the first time in years when he temporarily took over after Rather’s sour departure..and then was squeezed out to make room for Couric..came in first among those surveyed. But, at age 70, Schieffer has said it’s too late now and he really doesn’t want the job.
Not that CBS would listen, but maybe you have some thoughts on who you think should get the eventing news anchor job.
Feel free to click the comments..but please leave Hemmingsen and me out of it.  For one reason, none of our suits fit anymore.

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