The CBS Evening News hit a 20 year ratings low last week, giving perky – upbeat anchorperson Katie Couric the dubious honor of having surpassed one of Dan Rather’s less admirable achievements.

In fact, after hitting a low average of 6,157,000 for a week in March, Couric topped – er, bottomed that with an average of 6,050,000 this past week. She lags some 2,000,000 viewers behind both NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s Charles Gibson.

Explanations for Couric’s failure may not be so simple…

While it’s easy to point at issues like Couric’s background as a perky morning host/celebrity schmoozer on The Today Show, Charles Gibson did his own lengthy stint on morning TV as a co-host on Good Morning America. Williams, who hosted “news” programs on both MSNBC and CNBC before his elevation to evening news anchor stardom has also done his share of “fluff news” reporting.

So. Is it that the bar has been set higher for Couric because she is a woman? Some commentators think that it’s less that Couric is a woman than it is that she’s the wrong woman.

Or because she’s tried to bring some humor to the news? Some commentators certainly think so.

Whatever the problems are, they’re showing up as a lack of eyeballs. In the hyper-competitive evening news field, where the networks compete for fewer viewers with each passing month it seems, that spells trouble for Couric – and further decline for the news organization that gave us Murrow and Cronkite.

7 replies »

  1. As much as I hate to say it, sometimes decent TV “journalists” do fluff. Hell, they made Murrow do crap from time to time.

    But the question, when looking at people who have done both, is this: am I looking at a real reporter doing a fluff piece or am I looking at a fluffball trying to do real news?

  2. I suggest the latter. At least when Murrow did fluff, he wrote his own fluff. So did Cronkite. So did Rather. So did Reynolds. So did Jennings. So did Brokaw.

    Whether she’s a woman or the “right” woman isn’t the point. She just doesn’t have the work ethic or hard-news journalistic instincts viewers expect in the person sitting in that chair.

  3. I agree with drdenny here.

    Her interview with the Edwards family was pathetic, she never asks the hard questions, she doesn’t follow up or through to nail someone down, she doesn’t seem to do her homework, and she toes the line du jour, but in a completely innocuous way. I’ve seen harder journalism on E! She’s a perky fluffball.

    Compelling viewing, she does not make.

    It’s too bad that the pinnacle of her career was getting a colonoscopy in front to the entire world.

  4. Not gonna argue any of those points – I thought she was a poor choice from the git go – why the hell, if they were going to go outside, that they didn’t go for somebody like Christiane Amanpour – who’s both an excellent journalist and a woman (assuming those were the criteria they were looking at to differentiate from the other networks) – even Paula Zahn would have been a better choice….

  5. Here’s the good news, though. Putting Katie! in the same chair that Cronkite once sat in was full-spectrum stupid. It was an insanely, indefensibly dumb affront to the very idea of news. And nothing is quite as satisfying as seeing idiots losing.

    The tragedy here isn’t that CBS only has 6,157,000 viewers. It’s that they have any at all.