Monday, May 14, 2007

Note to CBS: It's Katie, not "a woman" who we dislike

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

In an attempt to dig CBS out of the gawd knows how many millions of dollars mistake it made by hiring Katie Couric to anchor its Evening News, CBS seems to have hit a new low – a low that is even lower than Couric’s ratings. Blaming it on the assumption that “people don’t want to get their news from women”.

I kid you not. Sean McManus, the president of CBS News, had this to say in an absolutely disgraceful article that gives CBS a pass but attempts to shift the blame towards a “bias against women”:

“It was almost a watershed event to have a woman in that chair.” He added, “There is a percentage of people out there that probably prefers not to get their news from a woman.”

No, jackhole, there is a percentage of people who want to get their news from news shows. Not who want to get fluff from news shows. Don’t blame “women” or set up strawmen (clearly not “straw women”) to cover for hiring someone with little to no serious journalistic experience – someone who was known as a “personality” as opposed to someone who could deliver news in an adult manner – someone whose interview skills weren’t completely lacking and someone who is a complete lightweight compared to serious women journalists.

There is a reason why the CBS Evening News ratings are at a 20 year low - that is the person who is delivering the news. The news which is being “delivered” isn’t much different than the news being “delivered” by Brian Williams or by Charles Gibson. It isn’t different from the other networks. It is the PERSON not the sex of the person that people don’t like. Plain and simple.

It was just about a month ago when I wrote a diary called Save Face, CBS. Dump Katie. Since then, the ratings for CBS Evening News have fallen further behind NBC and ABC. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault when CBS decided to go for “flair” just when everyone in America was starting to wake up from their slumber and (GASP) wanted to get REAL news. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault when the ratings for “talking meatsick punditry” was dropping faster than Mark Foley’s pants when a Congressional page logged onto AIM, yet it was CBS’ decision to throw close to $15 million per year at someone controversial AND unproven.

No, it is the fault of CBS for hiring someone that was in over her head way before she even started. It is Couric’s fault for not taking the job of Evening News anchor seriously. For her double standards towards Democrats, for being unsympathetic bordering on rude in her interview of John and Elizabeth Edwards, for having Rush Limbaugh on one of her initial shows without challenging him.

As for the whole “maybe people don’t like watching women” thing, well I have news for you – people don’t like their intelligence insulted. People don’t like when “credible journalists” plagiarize. People don’t like lazy journalism and allegations of “some people say”.

People watched Connie Chung and Barbara Walters. People watched Elizabeth Vargas and Jessica Savitch. People would watch Lara Logan, Christiane Amanpour, Amy Goodman, Campbell Brown, Judy Woodruff, even Rachel Maddow – just for starters. It isn’t about wanting to watch a woman read or deliver the news - it is about someone credible and unbiased reading or delivering the news. Period.

Sadly, in my diary from last month, I predicted (as did others) that the mistake by CBS to hire a clearly unqualified hack (whether it was male or female) would be used as an excuse to bash “women anchors”. So not only did Katie Couric completely ruin CBS’ Evening News – one of the most venerable Evening News shows in history, but also now has led to a doubting of women’s capability to anchor the Evening News.

Nothing could be further from the truth – but in under a year, Couric has destroyed CBS Evening News even worse than anyone could have imagined. Her complete lack of focus, attention to delivering real and not sensationalized news and seriousness in her approach to the job now has network executives publicly wondering whether it is a “women in general” problem.

Nice work, Katie – you may very well have destroyed the chance for many highly qualified women to advance in the field of journalism. And the sexist bosses at CBS News now have a convenient scapegoat for their colossal lack of foresight and planning. Knowing that there would be a spotlight on this “first woman solo anchor ever” situation, there was more than a responsibility to viewers and to journalistic integrity. There was a responsibility to serious women journalists that you wouldn’t screw this up so bad that it would threaten the opportunity for others after you.

And that responsibility was shirked in a massive way. By CBS and by Couric. That is nobody’s fault but CBSs’ and Couric’s.

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