When Katie Couric was tapped to anchor CBS Evening News, many considered it an attempt to “reinvigorate” television news. It’s fairly evident that it wasn’t successful in the way it was perhaps intended to be (both ABC and NBC are ahead of CBS in terms of nightly news viewers). However, Couric’s future remains bright as she has both a solid journalistic history (who could forget the infamous Tina Fey Palin interview?) and has tapped into new directions such as her webshow @katiecouric. Yup, perhaps the time for “anchorwomen” truly has come.
This past spring, CBS News president Sean McManus and executive vice-president Paul Friedman discussed whether to try to bring an end to what may be the last great experiment in network news: Katie Couric, anchorwoman. Though her reported $15 million annual contract is not up until next June, one idea that was floated was for CBS to buy out the remainder of Couric’s contract this September and put in someone new this fall, according to people familiar with the conversation. Executives were perhaps also concerned about the bad publicity that might result from a long contract negotiation with Couric, especially if she ended up leaving. McManus didn’t want to make an early move, and CBS CEO Leslie Moonves was also against moving so quickly. “Leslie is incredibly supportive,” one person familiar with Moonves’s thinking explained. “Moonves and Katie have an excellent relationship.”
One thing that I can’t help considering is who they would put in as a new anchor should Couric get the golden handshake. It’s going to be interesting in terms of feminism no matter what; if they replace Couric with a man (and correspondent Scott Pelley is the name most often thrown around at the moment), the message is going to be that, as a woman, she couldn’t hack it. If they put another female into the anchor chair, it’s possible that outcries of “She only got the job because …
… she has a vagina” will arise.
It’s also noteworthy that ABC’s current nightly news anchor is a woman. Diane Sawyer has, uh, a very different style than Couric’s. Nobody will ever accuse Sawyer of being perky, the word that has both identified and probably haunted Katie Couric throughout her career.
Don’t worry too much about Couric, though. She’s got tons of options. Her name is being floated as a possible replacement for CNN’s Larry King, and she’s not necessarily done at CBS either. There’s even a chance she’ll end up returning to NBC, although it could be complicated by the network’s merger with Comcast.
And Couric’s seeming comfort with another merger, that between television journalism and the internet, has her at an interesting crossroad.
Her next act in TV will likely be part of a larger media brand she hopes to build around content she creates. Television will be an important platform, but Couric over the past year has aggressively sought to establish herself online, through a weekly web interview show and frequent Twitter updates. One thought is that she would create her own production company.
There are times that Couric’s omnipresent smile kind of irks me, but I have to give her credit for always landing on her feet. Anyway, I consider her a great example of a woman willing to bend and adapt her skill set to meet the needs of her audience. It’s kind of cool, if you think about it.
To use a cheesy eighties line (my brother’s been visiting and we’ve been talking Corey Hart, Tears for Fears, and of course Timbuk3), her future’s so bright she’s gotta wear shades.
What are your thoughts on Katie Couric?