Freaking Out Squares

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tom and Katie, Sittin’ In A Tree

In case you haven’t read Tom Shales’s review of Katie Couric’s debut on CBS Evening News, here it is. And here’s my attempt to sound erudite about it.

When he’s not oozing condescension (replete with snarking about Couric’s outfit, and his subsequent assertion that commenting about it isn’t sexist), Shales does make some decent, if obvious points that what transpired Tuesday night isn’t so much news as it is news magazine, riddled as it was with such “special features” as “Eye On Your Money” and a “free speech” segment that, as Shales put it, “turn[s] out to be the oldest idea in television: Have some well-known or obscure blowhard pop up and do a rant into the camera.” Blowhard, indeed—tonight’s segment features none other than Rush Limbaugh.

It’s hard to tell if this bells-and-whistles approach is Couric’s doing or her producers’, but it’s a bit disingenuous given who Couric is, and it’s not clear what she and they are trying to do. Is this a not-so-subtle statement that Couric is too femme to tote the manly yoke of the nightly news? Is it an attempt to make CBS Evening News more populist, as Couric’s appointment was supposed to accomplish?

Yes, Couric is “perky.” Yes, she’s the first woman to anchor the evening news solo. My reaction to that is simultaneously, great, and what the hell took us so long. No, Katie Couric’s appointment is probably not some great leap forward on the road to equality, but it’s nice to see, anyway. Couric is no revolutionary. She is who she is—a perfectly competent broadcaster with some endearing qualities, some grating ones, and the good fortune to embody most of which we prize in contemporary American womanhood.

If Couric wishes to revolutionize the American news broadcast—and I’m not saying she should just because, hell, she’s a woman, and isn’t it our sole responsibility to be the change we see in the world? —she’d do well to look to the BBC’s fine tradition of delivering the news straight, no chaser. Of course, the current “populist” approach doesn’t allow for this. We need ten million more reminders that obesity and smoking can kill. I suppose that makes it more interesting.

My message to Couric: Just do it. Just give us the news. If you have to throw some obesity ultimatums in there, I’ll cut you some slack. You’re good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you. Kick Limbaugh's ass for me.


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