Ed Driscoll

Reflections In A Bloodshot Eye

Despite all that CBS has done for them over the years, crafting special reports with nuanced language such as this, and tracking down incredibly rare documents from the pioneering Microsoft Word beta testers at the 1972 Texas Air National Guard, how does their audience treat them these days? Check out this quote from CBS News executive Linda Mason:

I’m just surprised at how, almost 30 years after I worked on the “Evening News” as the first woman producer, that Katie is having such a tough time being accepted by the public, which seems to prefer the news from white guys, and now that Charlie’s doing so well, from older white guys. I guess they want the reassurance of a Walter Cronkite.

I had no idea that a woman delivering the news would be a handicap. And I’m afraid that Katie’s paying a price for being the first woman. [Lynne Russell must be rolling her eyes at this–Ed.] But I think it’s a great trail that she’s blazing, and I think if the broadcast continues to be as good as it has been, if we continue to break news, if we continue to tell interesting stories, people will start to watch. It takes time, I think. But I was surprised that there was an obvious connection between a woman giving the news, and the audience wanting to watch it.

Ed Morrissey writes: “Got that, America? Its not Katie’s fault, and it’s not that CBS stinks at putting together a compelling news show. We’re all a bunch of misogynistic bigots”–thus making Katie, with her multimillion dollar annual salary, “America’s Sweetest Victim”, as Ed dubs her, adding:

Of course, the career of this gentleman might address the race card that Mason blithely tosses to protect her network’s incompetence. Bernard Shaw spent twenty years at CNN, taking the news network from a blip to the point where it eclipsed news organizations like CBS. During that time, plenty of women had handled anchor desk duties at other times of their 24-hour news programming, and it didn’t seem to slow down CNN’s progress one whit.

In truth, Couric has had to pay for CBS’ poor editorial sense over the past several years. The nadir came in September 2004, when CBS allowed Mary Mapes and Dan Rather to first air a hit piece on George Bush during the presidential campaign based on laughably false documents, and then defending them while their story fell apart. Their integrity smashed, CBS limped along for the next two years while Rather continued to repel viewers and Bob Schieffer could not entice them back.

When they hired Couric, CBS obviously hoped to score some points by making her gender relevant. Les Moonves compared Couric to Jackie Robinson, which initiated gag reflexes around the nation. When she took over the news, CBS softened it to make it fit their new anchor — and in a way patronizing her and their audience, which responded in an utterly predictable manner. They started watching other news programs for the better production and journalistic values.

CBS now wants to blame its audience for the network’s failures. Edward R Murrow must be rolling in his grave.

In the past, it was possible for television news to bury a disaster like RatherGate, by making them sort of Orwellian unevents by refusing to refer back to them (sort of like their conscious decision to bury the radical chic backgrounds of their pet politicians). That’s a lot harder to do in the age of the Internet, where information regarding Dan Rather’s reign of error at CBS is merely a click away, and thousands of bloggers are all too eager to respond in kind when the event that he oversaw occurs, or when an executive such as Mason wants to trash her audience.

Update: Greg Pollowitz observes Katie-the-uber-blogger in action.