"The problem wasn't that Katie was a woman…"

Last week marked the end of an era — okay, a mini-era — with the final sign-off of Katie Couric as anchor of “The CBS Evening News.”  The marriage of Katie and CBS was rocky from the start.  What went wrong?  Some thoughts from someone who was there at the beginning (that would be, um, me):

People have spent the last five years scratching their heads and wondering: what went wrong? One who will have none of that, though, is New York Times columnist, Gail Collins, who last week hailed Katie Couric’s troubled tenure as a triumph. As Collins put it:

From my perspective as a charter of the progress of American women, Couric was a total success. The first great mandate for a First Woman is not to screw things up for the Second Woman or the Third. On that count, Couric did great. She was under incredible scrutiny and pressure, and she held up her end. There was never a point at which American viewers turned to each other and said: “Well, that certainly didn’t work out.”

Not so fast. In fact, American viewers did say that. A lot.

A few months before Katie’s show premiered, I was assigned as editor of her blog, “Couric & Co.” It was intended to be CBS’s answer to NBC’s popular “The Daily Nightly.” Editing Katie’s blog for a year, I got a good sense of what American viewers were thinking about the woman and her show. A lot of them were unimpressed. More than a few were angry.

The problem wasn’t that Katie was a woman. For decades, viewers had grown accustomed to seeing women anchor the news on cable and local stations, and no one had taken to the streets with torches and pitchforks. Despite Les Moonves’ public contention that sexism was behind Couric’s pitiful ratings (he at one point even compared her to Jackie Robinson, which would have been laughable, had it not been so patently offensive), the problem for Katie—and for CBS News—was not her sex or her gender, but the kind of woman she represented.

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15 responses to “"The problem wasn't that Katie was a woman…"”

  1. I do not watch CBS often but not because of Katie Couric. What kind of woman did Katie Cuoric represent?

    (Will…read the rest of the piece. I think it answers your question. Dcn G.)

  2. I didn’t think her problem was she was a woman or that she lacked gravitas. I felt her problem was that it was clear she was Liberal and had a Liberal bias. She did not come across as objective to both sides. Maybe her history tagged along when she became anchor.

  3. It remains mind boggling to me how talentless folks like Katie Couric make the big bucks, fail, and then get hired again by someone else for more big bucks.

    You’re kinder than I am Dcn. Greg, as I never could stand even watching the Today Show.

    Her “gotcha”, tabloid, no talent style would fit well with MSNBC, perhaps Olberman’s old job. In reality, I wouldn’t hire her for $20,00 K a year. Maybe Planned Parenthood can hire her, being that she is such a fan of Sangers.

    That said, I wish her well. It’s the folks like Katie who “really think they are something”, that often need the most in our prayers. The best thing that could happen to Katie Couric would be a real dose of reality, although, with her bucks, she will probably never get outside of her perky bubble.

  4. It all seems so irrelevant. I haven’t watched a broadcast evening news program in 20 years at least. By the time they come on, I have already read or watched the news on the internet or cable. Does anyone think these evening news shows are going to be around very much longer? Electronic media outran them a long time ago.

    It does seem, though, an excellent opportunity to created news programs that offer more in-depth coverage of specific news stories. Since the latest stories can be gotten on your phone, why not use the network resources to cover specific topics in-depth? I might watch that.

  5. Wow, she surely gets a reaction from some people! I admit that I don’t watch much t.v.; I’d rather read my news. But the few times I have seen Katie Couric, I didn’t think she was *that* bad. I would tend to agree with Dcn. Greg that maybe she was in the wrong slot for her personality. As far as being overpaid, there’s a lot of that going around in the show business and professional sports world!

  6. I never watched Katie’s broadcasts, and I don’t think it was a case of gender bias. I just thought she came across as being just a little too “sweet” to be giving us serious news. Though I must say at the same time that all the network news shows have turned us off, and are rarely watched.
    Deacon Greg, I found your comments to be very insightful and
    probably will be, of all those we read, the most “right on”. Thank you for that.

  7. Sorry. I never really had a problem with Couric in that job.

    As for the CBS news blog filling up with people talking about her hair and make-up — well, that sure SOUNDS like some of the viewers rejected her for superficial, sexist reasons. I’m sure there were other (more legitimate) reasons as well, but let’s not pretend sexism had nothing to do with it.

  8. Although I have no problem watching females as anchors I never once watched a complete broadcast of Katie Couric in that role. But then I never watched her on the “Today” show either. Maybe Katie is an acquired taste. I like Phyllis Diller so I cannot understand why I don’t take Katie Couric seriously.

  9. Deacon Greg: After reading the attached post, I now understand why her departure was important to you — it represented a significant stage in your own secular career. So be it.

    There are many superb women news reporters/commentators out there. CNN has a genuinely brilliant collection of them and any one of them could slide into the CBS Evening News slot and make a serious qualitative improvement.

    When you compare Katie, however, to someone of the quality of Christiane Amanpour, you realize that Katie Couric falls short. But then, maybe the entire CBS news production unit falls short when compared to CNN. I do know the CBS news production unit falls way below my regular source — NBC.

  10. Couric failed for two reasons.

    1) Nightly network news viewership has been dwindling for years as the aging demographic that still watches it is dying off.

    2) Couric is a political hack for the DNC without the slightest modicum of impartiality in her reporting. This bias turned off large portions of her remaining audience. At least pretend you are a real journalist.

  11. I think Holly in Nebraska nailed it, network news are now so irrelevant that they stand at the same level as the crossword puzzle in the Sunday paper. ABC, CBS and NBC are creatures from a bygone era and the anchor man or woman who dominated the news like Cronkite are now as extinct as dinosaurs.

    There was a time the networks dictated the news and dominated American public opinion. That has ended first with the left leaning CNN and definitely now with the right leaning Fox News.

    Then there is the Internet and instantaneous news and the endless analysis and blogging. All have made the network news of yore as quaint as an Elizabethan tavern.

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