Katie Couric Can’t Win
July 9, 2007 9:28 AM
Fair or unfair, the “CBS Evening News” anchor seems to be in a no-win situation.
Talking about it, at length, and authorizing her pals to talk about it on her behalf, doesn’t help, as a long article, headlined “Alas, Poor Couric,” in the current New York magazine makes all too clear.
If you don’t like Katie Couric before you read the first of the 6,300 or so words by Joe Hagan, you won’t like her any more when you get to the closing paragraph, in which “She summons a smile. Even now, her optimism is irrepressible.”
None of the possible rationales for why “Evening News” has not become a player since she took over the perpetually third-place newscast has not been uttered more than before by Ms. Couric, who wanted to serious-up (and make $15 million a year) after 15 years as the morning news star of NBC’s “Today” show, or by the CBS executives who wanted to lighten up the evening news genre in hopes of attracting viewers not interested in the old “Evening News.”
Genderism, sexism, stuck-in-a-rutism on the part of the audience and CBS Newsies who think maybe she’s not up to her current task, which includes acting as managing editor of “Evening News,” are suggested again. So is meanness on the part of the media, which apparently waited for 15 long years to throw darts at her.
Insulting the audience, yeah, that’s the ticket, to borrow the catchphrase of Jon Lovitz’s old liar character.
Insulting the media is Katie Couric’s right, but it's naive. Covering the ratings decline, when a ratings incline was what CBS paid for, didn’t start with Katie Couric, won’t end with Katie Couric, and isn’t limited to Katie Couric.
Insulting her own news organization probably won’t inspire confidence on the part of the viewers who are on the fence or who jumped it.
There’s a lot of nothing new in the article, but the juiciest anecdote, which is landing in the headlines about the article, begs the question of whether gender doesn’t at least occasionally work in her favor.
Ms. Couric admits repeatedly smacking news editor Jerry Cipriano on the arm because he used the word “sputum” in the story of the world-famous tuberculosis case in June and it’s not a word she wanted used.
“’I sort of slapped him around,” Ms. Couric said to Mr. Hagan. “I got mad at him and said, ‘You can’t do this to me. You have to tell me when you’re going to use a word like that.’ I was aggravated, there’s no question about that.” But she says she has a good relationship with Cipriano. “We did ban the word sputum from all future broadcasts. It became kind of a joke.’”
A guy, speaking with the voice of God or not, couldn’t have gotten away with that kind of management style. And if Ms. Couric hadn’t done this New York magazine interview, we wouldn’t know that she thinks it’s kind of a joke.