Katie Couric's Biggest Mistake?
Katie Couric is whining in a recent interview that her job as anchor of CBS Evening News isn't what she thought it would be, and that she's not happy about it. And who's fault is it? Yours and mine, of course.
"People are very unforgiving and very resistant to change," Couric said in an interview with New York magazine. "The biggest mistake we made is we tried new things."
Really? You think that's your biggest mistake? I guess that's one way of putting it. But Katie Couric would do well to remember that some of us hate her news broadcast not simply because we fear change, but, rather, because the changes she tried to impose on the broadcast were... well... fucking stupid and destructive and potentially made viewers stupider for having watched CBS.
Remember, Katie Couric went on a "listening tour" of the United States to find out what "regular folks" want to hear and see on the news. 'Cause for far too long, uppity journalists have been filling the airwaves with stories that frighten and depress us-- let the viewers decide what the news is. We're the customers, after all.
And then there were the interviews, which Couric complains she's had to scale back in recent weeks due to mounting criticism. While interviews with important people are informative, the 30-minute nightly newscast is probably not the best place for them. 30 minutes really only allow for highlights of the day's news-- it's a limitation of the format, to be sure, but in order to cover as much news as possible, the nightly newcaster really can't go into too much detail on any one story-- that's for print journalism, really (and, perhaps, evening news magazines or cable news and commentary shows). And besides-- Katie Couric is a terrible interviewer (or, at least, she's terrible at interviewing important newsmakers and political figures). She likes to ask tough, hard-hitting questions, but frequently doesn't seem to know what she's talking about. Her rudeness with John and Elizabeth Edwards was a good example of this, but an even better example happened earlier, when she was still on Today, when she tried to tell Howard Dean that Jack Abramoff had donated money to Democrats as well as Republicans. This, of course, was not true, and Howard Dean quite correctly pointed that out to her and cleared the air. Nevertheless, I think it's a little dangerous to have someone so willfully ignorant about current events anchoring a nightly newscast.
Worst of all, there was the ill-advised "Free Speech" segment, which ostensibly provided experts a forum to sound off on important issues of the day, but instead became a place for conservative pundits to sound off on social issues so that no one would ever occur CBS Evening News of having a "liberal bias." When people like Rush Limbaugh are appearing on your show, you don't get to call it "the news" anymore.
Look, if you need someone to interview Clay Aiken or John Grisham, Katie Couric's great. She's charismatic and clever and I'm sure she's a very nice person. But I don't necessarily want charismatic, clever, or nice in my news source. I want accuracy and intelligence. That's what I used to get from CBS, before Katie Couric and Les Moonves decided that the evening news might be improved if it was dumbed down so that people would think "Hey, the news can be fun!" You're right, Ms. Couric-- I don't like the changes you imposed. But the biggest mistake wasn't that you tried new things-- it's that the new things were designed to to substitute entertainment for information, and style over substance.