What’s important about the internet to me is how it can undercut and challenge the calcified and celebrity-struck MSN.
[H]ereâ€™s why the CBS Evening News is struggling in the ratings, how it can turn things aroundâ€¦and why none of it is Katie Couricâ€™s fault.
That’s not the latest love letter to Katie Couric from Tom Shales or Howard Kurtz (or the LAT’s Matea Gold, or the NYT’s Jacques Steinberg …); that’s from Mediaite, the just-launched site that wants to give us the no-holds-barred, behind-the-scenes scoop on the media!
The title to that article is “The Current State of the CBS Evening News: Donâ€™t Blame Katie.” After a no-doubt dogged series of interviews, the writer, Steve Krakauer, as the excerpt above indicates, set out to tell us what’s really wrong in what used to be called the Tiffany Network, before MTV bought it.
Now, as I read it, Krakauer after that big setup has exactly two reasons Couric is not to blame.
I know this because they are labeled “#1″ and #2.”
The first is “Politics.” The network, he says, is viewed as liberal.
Krakauer is referring to the image of the network when Dan Rather was the anchor. Funny thing. Times have changed and now, as you might have heard, NBC is the liberal network. The CBS image may no doubt linger, particularly among the senior-skewing evening news audience. But it has doubtless eased in recent years, particularly with the adoption of senior-friendly Katie Couric as anchor.
The other prong of his argument is that CBS’s audience is redder than the other networks. He cites a Time story on The Mentalist that makes the argument that CBS has “a lock” on throwback entertainment designed for the more traditional TV audience.
James Poniewozik is a strong analyst of TV, of course, but you could make the argument that he was, in effect, making the argument for The Mentalist. The hydra-headed amped-up CSI franchise on CBS is the opposite of everything The Mentalist is supposed to be. So is Survivor. So is Big Brother. So is The Big Bang Theory.
In other words, Krakauer’s argument a) isn’t true and b) to the extent it might be was supposed to have been eased by Couric.
Krakauer’s second argument (“Lead-in”) for Couric is that she has poor lead-ins from some CBS affiliates in LA and Chicago. Well, fine. She has some weak lead-ins from affiliates. But does that explain why her ratings have been dropping?
Here’s the case against Couric, none of which Krakauer acknowledges:
1) Her background is not substantive enough to be a network TV anchor. 2) Her experience is in the realm of infotainment*. 3) After that burst of publicity on her ascendance to the position, her ratings quickly dropped, and have consistently been far below that of her predecessor, Bob Shieffer. 4) The audience checked her out and decided it didn’t like her. 5) Her one big ratings bounce up came … after the last election, suggesting that America viewed her as a comforting lap to sit on when there wasn’t any real news out there. 6) Then they went down again. 7) Then they went down some more, to the point where she is now breaking her own record of the lowest ratings ever for the newscast. 8 ) For her reported $15 million salary, the network could hire 100 reporters and producers to, you know, report the news. 9) Instead of productively working to deal with these issues, she’s embarked on a long-running PR campaign, which, having exhausted all other venues, has now dripped down to internet startups looking for a little celebrity juice.
When, as seems inevitable, Couric gets dumped by CBS, shouldn’t Mediaite want to be ahead of that curve, rather than behind it with the likes of Howard Kurtz?
* In an early post on Couric, I detailed some of the creepy stuff she did on the Today Show and referred to her, justifiably, as “the public face of a skanky network infotainment franchise.” More recently, I referred to her as a “skanky infotainment specialist“; a friend, offended, pointed out that I used the word to describe her. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s a fair comment; I shouldn’t call Couric herself “skanky.”
Previously in Hitsville:
Couric’s ratings: It gets worse
Confidential to Tom Shales and Howard Kurtz: Katie Couric’s ratings are in the tank again!
Couric Watch: Ratings plummet!
Paging Katie Couric!
Dear Tom Shales
Katie Couricâ€”Where America Turns When the News Is Overâ„¢
Katie Couric, the News Anchor That Nobody Watchesâ„¢
Couric and CBS, lying
Should CBS jettison its news division?
Katie Couricâ€™s ratings hit a new low
Howie hearts Katie
Kurtz the lame
Couric, the debate, and the vaporization of CBS News
Katie Couric, a year laterÂ