Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sign of the Apocalypse #32: Katie Couric heads to CBS

According to The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, long-time Today Show co-host Katie Couric is set to take over the CBS Evening News from Bob Schieffer. An announcement is expected this week. (Update: It's official.)

Why is this a SOTA? Not because of Couric herself, although I don't think she's the right person to take over a nightly network news broadcast (although, in terms of ratings, her popularity may help her lead the show out of the basement). No, it's that this isn't about the news, nor about broadcasting integrity or excellence. It's about entertainment. It's Network. We've known this all along, of course, but now it's just so transparent. And so grotesque. Consider this: "Couric's pending departure has been the focus of intense media speculation, both because of her celebrity and the historic nature of the move."

Can Couric report the news with the appropriate gravitas? Perhaps, but she's a morning-show host, not an anchor (in the more traditional sense of that term). Does that even matter anymore? Maybe not. The era of Cronkite and Chancellor -- even the era of Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings -- is over. Is she enough of a journalist? Maybe not. But, again, it's not at all clear that an anchor even needs that sort of experience anymore. Besides, even Brokaw hosted Today.

Other than her celebrity, which is what this is all about, is this "historic"? Well, it's different. No woman has ever hosted a nightly network news broadcast by herself. Fair enough. But then why not hire Couric's possible replacement at Today, Meredith Vieira, currently co-host of The View? She's a former 60 Minutes correspondent "with deep roots in network news". Well, because she's not enough of a celebrity, because she's not a celebrity of Couric's caliber.

Remember: This isn't about the news and the reporting thereof. And it's certainly not about journalism. It's about ratings. It's about the show. It's about money. CBS has lagged in third place for a long time. Couric -- who is expected to make even more than the $15-16 million she makes at NBC (there's another SOTA for another time) -- may change that.

Good for Katie Couric, but still a Sign of the Apocalypse.

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Update: For an alternative view, see Slate's Troy Patterson, who says that he is "disinclined to regard this as a sign of the apocalypse". I wonder if he's read The Reaction.

Also, this post was quoted (but not linked to) at The Philadelphia Inquirer's Blinq blog -- see here. The author of that blog, Daniel Rubin, considers this SOTA "a little heavy handed". But at least he correctly identifies me as a "liberal blogger".

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