One Critic’s Wardrobe Malfunction with Katie Couric
July 16, 2006 8:57 PM
The most contentious moment in “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Katie Couric’s TCA press tour Sunday morning came at the end of her hour-long session with network news and sports chief Sean McManus. A critic asked Couric if she’s decided what her wardrobe will be once she debuts on Sept.5. “You’re kidding, right,” Couric asked.
“Sadly I’m not,” the critic said.
“I’ve actually gone to Charlie Gibson’s stylist,” Couric cracked, referring to ABC’s new evening news anchor.
McManus took issue with the question.
“You gonna ask Charlie Gibson what he’s going to wear,” McManus asked the critic, implying that a female anchor’s wardrobe is a subject to media discussion, while a male anchor would never get asked such a superficial question.
The critic seemed to be embarrassed into saying he would ask Gibson the same thing when he speaks at press tour later in the week.
Besides the wardrobe scuffle, McManus and Couric had a relatively smooth ride at press tour.
McManus thinks there is an “incredibly inordinate amount of attention being paid” to the subject of “media royalty,” or the personas of certain TV news anchors.
He was responding to a question where a critic asked if the celebrity of anchors like Couric and Anderson Cooper is the defining quality in their work.
“What’s going to make Katie successful is not her celebrity but her talents as a reporter and as an anchor,” he said. The celebrity element is a “positive,” because “it’s drawing an enormous amount of attention” to the newscast. But if the newscast itself isn’t any good “in the end that will all be wasted.”
In her ongoing series of town hall meetings across the country, Couric said she has heard attendees say they feel the news is too “depressing.” While she has no interest in sugar coating the news, Couric said she would like to see if there are cases when the news “can be more solution oriented.” She also noted that many people at the meetings didn’t feel the country was polarized as is often portrayed in the media.
“People are hungry and interested in the grey areas of stories, and more nuanced reporting,” Couric said, suggesting that news should do more than just present the extreme point of view on each side of an issue.
The broadcast evening news format is in much better shape than some critics think, McManus said.
“I don’t think our model is broken,” McManus said, pointing out the evening newscast has added 300,000 viewers over its performance over last year. “Are we different than cable?
They have a different product, and they have a miniscule audience compared to our products. We’re in the broadcasting business. We do a good job now and we will do a better job starting Sept. 5.”
When asked by a critic what she has learned from interim “CBS Evening News” anchor Bob Schieffer, Couric said he “speaks plain English” and that there is a comfort level with him, because he is “not necessarily imparting news from the mountain top,” and that when he debriefs reporters he asks them relevant questions.”
The managing editor title is “somewhat nebulous in its actual job description,” Couric said, but it means she will “have significant input in editorial content.”
Another critic asked Couric what her reaction was to the way former evening news anchor Dan Rather departed CBS.
“I think that’s a great question for Sean.” Couric said, avoiding comment on a situation that became tense after Rather told the media he didn’t think he was treated respectfully by the network.
McManus did not shy away from the question, admitting that after “60 Minutes 2” was cancelled he “didn’t think there was enough meaningful work to keep Dan Rather at CBS News.”
He said he made this known to Rather’s representatives, but that “lawyers got involved.” In April McManus said he sent Rather a note, and that they tried to schedule a lunch that got cancelled twice. McManus and Rather sat down for a lunch June 21 where “I explained fully my rationale,” McManus said, with the pair ended lunch with a handshake.
“He wants to do hour-long documentaries,” McManus said. “That’s great, but we don’t do that anymore at CBS.”
“I have nothing but warm thoughts for Dan,” he added.
CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier, who was seriously injured covering the war in Iraq, “will be back,” McManus said, noting that he has spoken to her several times as she recovers.
“She’s going to make it and continue to be a good member of our team.”