Saturday, April 14, 2007

Save face, CBS. Dump Katie.

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos.

Throughout broadcast news history, CBS has an incredibly impressive track record. Edward R. Murrow is one of the best examples of journalistic integrity and groundbreaking newsmaking. 60 Minutes is one of the most distinguished and popular television show of all time, let alone TV news show.

Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer are all venerable institutions in the world of major network broadcast news. Sure, there was the flap over Bush’s National Guard documents, but everyone seems to forget that the facts of the overall story itself were never denied by anyone associated with the Bush administration. By and large, for decades, CBS News was viewed as the place to go for an example of journalistic integrity.

And now, CBS is on the verge of throwing away over six decades of its’ good name and reputation – all based on trying to increase ratings by hiring a “personality” as opposed to a serious newsperson to anchor and be the face of its’ flagship news operation. The irony here, of course, is that within six weeks of her first broadcast, Couric’s viewership was lower than Flavor Flav’s VH1 show, and has basically been in third place consistently over the past six months.

Now, it certainly isn’t the fact that there are no women who would make excellent anchors for the evening news. Take Christiane Amanpour, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Lara Logan. Hell, even Elizabeth Vargas did a credible job filling in for Bob Woodruff. Any of these would be a tremendous step up, and I am sure there are many others who I didn’t even think of off the top of my head.

But, the “Great Katie experiment” has quickly not only become a tremendous failure any way you want to measure it, but it has also done what nothing before could do – threaten to completely ruin the CBS News brand of quality journalism and rebrand CBS as lazy journalism.

Just in the past couple of weeks, we have seen an incredible amount of puff, spin, lies, plagiarism, right wing talking points and lack of journalistic integrity from the very desk that defined journalistic integrity. A very brief recap of the more major offenses:

A longer and more damning list of her “credentials” is here at MediaMatters (hat tip to HollywoodOz for his round up of her history).

Couric is clearly not ready for prime time. She probably never was and never will be ready to be that serious journalist – the one biggest criteria and requirement to be a television news anchor. There is a place for people with her “skill set”. Network news is most certainly not that place.

FoxNews is one of those places. Some of the other cable “news” channels may also be appropriate. The Today Show and Good Morning America could also apply, although “there were many who said” Katie was wearing out her welcome there before she was offered the CBS job (how’s that for good sourcing?).

Clearly, this was a ratings ploy. Clearly, that did not go over nearly as planned. CBS is not only still in third place, but they are way behind in the ratings, and are viewed as a lightweight compared to NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s Charles Gibson. CBS Evening News has ceased to be relevant – and has ceased to even be news.

Do yourselves a favor, CBS – buy out this contract, admit the error, move on and get back to doing what your news division is supposed to be doing.

Start delivering the news again.

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