The Year of Anchoring Dangerously

September 5th, 2007

Just one year ago today, with trumpets blaring and the media fawning over her, Katie Couric became the first female network news anchor. She was going to change the face of broadcast news. It was a momentous milestone for professional women.

And then, the red light went on, and Katie began to falter.  She immediately put herself in the position of not being considered serious enough for the widely respected CBS News Station with the unveiling of – dum-da-dum-dum… Suri Cruise’s first baby picture.

At first her ratings were great due to the curiosity factor. But then the cold hard reality set in – she simply isn’t that good a news reader. Katie looks and sounds like she’s reading, her eyes moving back and forth across the teleprompter and her flatlined delivery.

The problem was greatly exacerbated by CBS News’ efforts to reinvent the evening news with features like “Free Speech,” which was universally despised.

Every now and then, some news organization decides it’s going to reinvent the news. It never works; the American public simply won’t put up with a radical change from their network news departments. CBS has scrapped the reinvention efforts and is now just tackling the fundamentals.

Was she a great morning anchor, expert at combining cooking segments with world affairs, interviews with small doses of news reading? Absolutely. But gazing into the camera authoritatively and telling America what happened that day? She never had a shot. These are two very different jobs and just because you’re great at one doesn’t mean you can do the other.

Now Katie languishes in third place with lower ratings than when her predecessor Bob Scheiffer held the seat, hovering in the neighborhood of irrelevance. Since she assumed the top spot at CBS, ABC’s World News Tonight turned its anchor seat over to Charlie Gibson with much less fanfare and far greater results – Gibson is now Number One in the ratings.

Now Katie faces the long hard slog of trying to be a serious news anchor – not quite the dynamic home run CBS was looking for when they gave her $60 million for the next five years.

Posted Under: Media & Journalism
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