Dear Mr. Moonves,
It has come to my sad attention that your CBS Evening News broadcast is limping toward irrelevancy, seemingly mired in third place. To date the Great Katie Experiment of 2006 looks to have come a stinker.
A shame. You spent a great deal of money hyping your new anchor, and tweaked the show in interesting – at times commendable – fashion. The experiment with freeSpeech, while fraught with all the division and reactionary angst one can expect from viewers in these divided and reactionary times, was a worthwhile one. A good idea poorly implimented, it could yet contribute some useful dialogue to the nation, if you can remember to turn those vaulable seconds over to less exalted folk than Rush Limbaugh and Barack Obama.
In this Christmas season of charity and kindness, I will resist the temptation to say “I told you so,” and to remind you that I several times laid out to you viable alternatives to Couric – oh, screw all this politeness! Hell, Moonves, I begged you to consider lesser known “stars,” newspeople whom CBS could groom and promote and raise as your own.
If CBS had taken on Lester Holt or Dehlia Gallagher, and hyped either of them up as you did Couric, you’d had created the same marketing “curiousity” and would have gotten a first week’s great numbers, just as Couric did – and yeah, the same little immediate drop off – but you could have built something from that. People like what’s new and different, what they do not already know. Either one of my suggestions would have brought personal charisma by the busload, the “non-white male” factor, appeal to younger people – both male and female – and CBS could have made it’s own little “in-house star” and talked about how it was the serious news network, rebuilding its crumbling and aged House of Tiffany brick by sturdy (not shiny) new brick. Gallagher, in particular, with her writing chops, could have brought real gravitas to the show, instead of sparkle. Men love her. Women want to be her.
Instead, you brought on Couric, who might be perfectly nice and perfectly capable, but she already had half the country hating (or at least distrusting) her and is a very much KNOWN entity. And therein is a huge problem – the reason even stealing Diane Sawyer from ABC might not have worked: network news broadcasts are suffocating from same-ness. We see the same faces, all the time, from network to network, news show to news show and it’s all starting to feel vaguely like a trip to Salt Lake City; everyone looks the same, everyone hails from the same place, everyone thinks, speaks and acts the same, everyone talks the same talk (even down to using the same words) and everyone works in the same studios – ad nauseum – until the whole enterprise called “televised news” has taken on a slighty incestuous and ughy feel.
No wonder Obama is making such a splash within that party – he is the ONLY new face they’ve shown in 25 years and I think his very freshness and newness – the idea of something new – is helping him get himself known. His “new” face is – for now – his most powerful marketing tool, and he’s got everyone looking and listening early, and some are staying – for various reasons – which means he’s building something that could end up being a mansion among row-houses.
You could have had that, too. Something fresh, not tired – something that promised “an abundance of hope” or at least a lengthy springtime of newness against a competition nearly moribund with factory-esque sameness.
You know, just because I’m some blogger on Long Island doesn’t mean I don’t know anything. You should step outside your insulated little Upper West Side conclave sometime and talk to the “real” people toward whom you are supposedly trying to sell your programming. What you would be hearing is not, “oh, Gawd, Katie Couric reading the nightly news, I’m so excited I could pee myself!” You’d be hearing, “who else you got, warming up in the wings? Got anything, anyone NEW? Hello, we’re BORED over here!”
Unless of course – as I’ve long suspected – you’re not actually gearing your programming toward us “ordinary viewers” at all, but toward your friends in the industry and in politics and the academy.
In which case, to hell with ya. Me and my good advice will go elsewhere. And not – as you, in you in your knee-jerk, stereotyping way might think – to your hyper-active, negative-attention-seeking cousins and their bubble-lipped, mud-wrestling-babe anchors on FOX News. No, we’ll just go away. Far, far away. Into the blogosphere into which you cannot ever fully follow. Merry Christmas.
Miss ya, Moonves! Mean it!