If you haven't heard already, all the major news organizations are buzzing about the Wall Street Journal's scoop about how Katie Couric is set to get canned from her anchor position at CBS News. Couric, 51, is being paid about $15 million a year, and, though almost two years have passed after her much-buzzed debut — she began in September 2006 — her ratings have remained consistently in third place (several million viewers behind her closest network competitor). The real question is not when Katie will leave or where she'll end up, it's why is her tenure at the CBS Evening News such a complete and unmitigated disaster. According to the Washington Post, "Network executives are unsure whether Couric's difficulties are based in part on viewers' discomfort with the first solo female anchor of such a broadcast, sentiment that her personality is better suited to morning television or some other explanation."
I think Katie is temperamentally wrong as an evening news anchor — the position stifles her exuberance — but I do think CBS News bears much of the blame. First of all, though the Journal claims that "CBS had hoped to recast Ms. Couric this year as a populist political anchor", the multimillionaire is about as much of a populist at this point as 10,700-square-foot-mansion-owning John Edwards is. (I know that she probably had a big working class female audience as an anchor on Today, but her semi-recent glamorous makeover and the big bucks she's making at CBS make her "populism" a difficult product to sell to the people.) The Journal also reports that CBS CEO Les Moonves "vowed to dedicate more money to the broadcast and to build up its Web presence," and lured Katie to the job by saying he would structure the program around her skills. But where are those skills and where is evidence that CBS played to them? Couric always seems to be behaving the way she thinks an anchor should behave like as opposed to just being herself. It makes me wonder whether the fact that she's a woman in a largely male-dominated field is influencing how she presents herself, or, gender aside, she was simply the wrong person for the job.
CBS News, Katie Couric Are Likely To Part Ways [Wall Street Journal]
Katie Couric's Future As CBS Anchor Under Discussion [Washington Post]