Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Katie Couric

How relevant is Katie Couric’s presence on CBS News? About as relevant as CBS News itself. In other words, not very.

In 1965, we all got our news in the early evening. First the local station for 30 minutes. Then the three networks brought national and international news. Cronkite, Huntley/Brinkley, and…and…who was on ABC back then?…fought it out for viewer eyeballs. These men were icons of the news, and they claimed a certain level of credibility by the sheer weight of their ratings.

That monopoly – and fight for advertising dollars – no longer exists. We now have a much broader choice of alphabet soup from CNN, Fox, MSNBC, PBS and their various segmentations. The major networks no longer have the volume of viewers, nor do their news operations have the same cachet they did forty years ago.

Katie may sit in Walter’s chair, but she doesn’t sit on the same pedestal.

And it has nothing to do with gender. The cable stations have had numerous female anchors, even going solo in front of the teleprompter. As one columnist noted today, when Katie Couric signed a $15million-a-year contract, she was the first female anchor to get a major promotion. But she was no Jackie Robinson:

Actually, the minute Katie Couric was given a $15 million paycheck to read from a teleprompter for 15 or 20 minutes a night, women won. Women have been doing that at the BBC and on American cable stations for years, and for a lot less dough. Jackie Robinson represented a revolution; Katie Couric represented a promotion.

The sad truth is, women only get to the top of places like the network evening news and Hollywood after those places are devalued. (Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 9-6-2006)

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