The Plank

What Women Want?

By and

The hiring of Katie Couric as anchor of the CBS Evening News stands as one of the most visible testaments to the decline of American journalism (not that her predecessor Dan Rather was great shakes). J.P. Freire has an excellent article in Brainwash explaining why this is so. Couric's recent trip to Iraq, Freire writes, "is a PR stunt aimed to gin up credentials for an anchor who isn't taken seriously as a reporter. Creating a peaceful Iraq seems like cakewalk by comparison."

Despite the claims of CBS, Couric's ascension does not represent some great achievement for women in journalism. There are far more serious women journalists than Couric, and have been, for decades (I'm referring to print and radio journalism; television journalism has become an increasingly un-serious field). In fact, I'd argue that Couric's ascension to the anchor chair represents a setback for women in journalism (and is patronizing to women in general), because the message CBS implicitly sends is: we're hiring a female news anchor -- and a lightweight, morning coffee klatsch host to boot -- not because she actually has the smarts or skills of a serious journalist, but because she will attract women viewers. When Dan Rather complained that CBS was "tarting up" its newscast by hiring Couric, he was unfairly maligned (despite his ill-considered choice of words) because critics ignored the first part of his quote, which is that the Tiffany network is "Dumbing it down."

This video, where Couric tours the CBS Baghdad bureau bothering her co-workers and showing off her flip-flops, reminds me of the British version of The Office, with Couric as a plain unfunny David Brent (Freire prefers "Cribs if it were hosted by Matt Lauer.") The only bit of original news analysis Couric offers is that Ray Odierno is "Daddy Warbucks on Steroids."

And that's the way it is?

--James Kirchick

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