If you’re not watching Katie Couric, the problem is YOU

If you’re not watching Katie Couric, the problem is YOU May 11, 2007

Ed Morrissey has a great piece up looking at the latest nonsense coming out of CBS about Katie Couric’s dismal failures at the anchor desk. As Ed points out, “So far, she has made quite an impact — by driving the numbers to lows not seen in twenty years.”

Citing this interview between Brian Montopoli of CBS Public Eye [full-disclosure: I once wrote a guest piece at that site] and CBS News Senior VP Linda Mason, Ed catches a wiff of a “blame the consumer” mentality which portends a network in deep denial.

Linda Mason: I’m just surprised at how, almost 30 years after I worked on the “Evening News” as the first woman producer, that Katie is having such a tough time being accepted by the public, which seems to prefer the news from white guys… [Ed’s emphasis]

[…]And I’m afraid that Katie’s paying a price for being the first woman. But I think it’s a great trail that she’s blazing, and I think if the broadcast continues to be as good as it has been, if we continue to break news, if we continue to tell interesting stories, people will start to watch. It takes time, I think. But I was surprised that there was an obvious connection between a woman giving the news, and the audience wanting to watch it.

Ed takes exception to Mason’s apparent charge that none of Couric’s failure may be laid at Couric’s own feet – that this all boils down to the public being a bunch of bigots and misogynists. He notes Bernard Shaw’s 20 years as anchor at CNN (during a period where CNN was much more highly regarded than it is currently, btw).

I’ll go Ed one better and remind Ms. Mason that this little blog begged – and not once but several timesbegged Les Moonves to abandon his Couric windmill and build his own stable of young CBS news anchor stars by hiring Dehlia Gallagher or Lester Holt, or some combination thereof, to replace Dan Rather.

It is rather sad that we can only name two black anchors, isn’t it, Bernard Shaw and Lester Holt? Are we really supposed to believe that we can’t name more solely because America doesn’t want to watch a black anchor, or is it because the networks aren’t hiring them for us to watch? In that case, who are the real bigots? We can’t watch black anchors if the networks won’t hire them!

Hype aside, is it really such a big deal for Katie Couric to be anchoring a network news show when women have been anchoring at CNN, MSNBC and yes, even FOX for many years? CBS went out of it’s way to hire a showcase female for a serious job, and then wonders why no one cares, but the truth is, when women are the majority in law schools and med schools, as they are today, when they are reporters and soldiers on the front and pilots flying fighter jets, is Couric really such a “trailblazer” to be reading a teleprompter on a network news show?

And is it the viewer’s fault that they find nothing compelling in her doing so, or is it simply that – despite the feminist narrative – we’re now accustomed to women being in all sorts of positions, so it’s just not a big deal? It may matter to the denizens of the Upper West Side, for whom no headway is ever acknowledged on the “isms” front, but for the rest of the world – the world that sees just how ordinary it is for women to assume leadership roles, it’s just a yawn. Twenty years ago it might have been “enough” for Couric to have gotten into the anchor chair. Today her being a woman is not enough; she has to be good at her job, too, and she simply is not. Her weaknesses are all too apparent, and they are not weaknesses of her sex, but of her self.

A year or so ago my son Buster, dealing with a teacher who was sounding the women-are-victims horn, said: I’ve been listening to this ‘women can do anything men can do’ line since I was two years old, watching Sesame Street. I’ve GOT it, and all the girls [have] GOT IT, TOO, so it seemed pretty useless to me to rehash these old, complaints…”

Maybe we’ve all “got it,” and that’s why Katie Couric anchoring a news desk is simply not an issue of her gender, and why Mason’s belchings ring so hollow. Feminists have won. They said women can do anything men can do, and women have proved it, and we all believe and accept it…so much so that we have no compulsion to accept mediocrity by a female simply because she’s “the first woman” in the job.

Perhaps it is time to change the narrative. Women are no longer oppressed, and we’re long past the time when one could giddily announce “women have arrived!” Now, women are simply people in jobs, subject to the same standards, expectations and scrutiny as any man, and just as apt to fail. Supposedly, that’s what feminists wanted.

We do women in general no favors, at this point, by continuing an “affirmative action” mindset that says, “aw, she’s a woman, and it’s a man’s world, so she gets extra forbearance.”

That’s nonsense. Once you’ve reached a pinnacle, you can’t keep whining that you’re only teetering because you’re a woman. You’re teetering because the pinnacle is slim, sharp and lonely, and you can only remain there if you belong there, or if you have one hell of a safety belt supporting you. Those that belong there make the pinnacle look easy, the rest impale themselves or fall. Or they loll about in the safety belt, and stagnate.

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