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Katie Couric plays the “chick” card

January 17, 2007

On her CBS Evening News blog, new anchorwoman Katie Couric (formerly “perky” Katie, the anchor of the NBC Today show) takes a shot at network television news for not allowing more female anchors.

Katie Couric grimmacesShe mentions a recent visit to the White House for a private network anchors’ briefing. Of the eight anchors in the room, she was the only female, and lamented the fact that 51% of the country was women, yet only 16% of Congress is female.

And of course, only 1 of 8 in the briefing was female — just her.

Here’s her comments:

And even though I’ve been in this business for more years than I’d like to admit, and interviewed countless Presidents and world leaders, it’s still thrilling—and even a little awe-inspiring—to get “briefed” at the White House, no matter who is sitting in the Oval Office.

And yet, the meeting was a little disconcerting as well. As I was looking at my colleagues around the room—Charlie Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer, Wolf Blitzer, and Brit Hume—I couldn’t help but notice, despite how far we’ve come, that I was still the only woman there. Well, there was some female support staff near the door. But of the people at the table, the “principals” in the meeting, I was the only one wearing a skirt. Everyone was gracious, though the jocular atmosphere was palpable.

The feminist movement that began in the 1970’s helped women make tremendous strides—but there still haven’t been enough great leaps for womankind. Fifty-one percent of America is female, but women make up only about sixteen percent of Congress—which, as the Washington Monthly recently pointed out, is better than it’s ever been…but still not as good as parliaments in Rwanda (forty-nine percent women) or Sweden (forty-seven percent women). Only nine Fortune 500 companies have women as CEO’s.

Ugh…three cringe-worthy moments…

  1. “No matter who is sitting in the Oval Office.” — Why does THAT matter?
  2. The mention of “female support staff” — So, women shouldn’t be in high-ranking support roles? They should pass on those unless they can run the show?
  3. “Only nine Fortune 500 companies have women as CEO’s.” — Hmmm….and yet, they are STILL the TOP 500 companies in the world! Interesting…

Now, don’t get me wrong. Couric has achieved a lot in her journalism career, and has reported from prestigious beats, as well as huge world events. She’s filled in as a network anchor in the past. Through her merits and her hard work, she earned her spot on the CBS anchor desk.

But lets not forget her character and personality, which won her honors on the Today show as host, helped her as well.

Katie rocks?Her bubbly personality worked well with the celebrity of the day, the cooking segments and the summer concert series.

That personality gave Today a large following, which translated to clout for Couric to negotiate a multi-million-dollar deal ($16M, rumored) for the CBS anchor gig when Dan Rather was forced to step aside (and Bob Schieffer didn’t affect ratings very much).

Now, the numbers are in, and Couric’s program is dead last in the ratings behind NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s Charles Gibson, despite all of her changes to the show to make it more “viewer-friendly.” CBS sometimes is doubled in the ratings by leader NBC in larger markets.

And there’s no sign of improvement. Media critics are frequently commenting that Couric is out of her league when it comes to hard news interviews. Let’s leave it at this … it was a fun experiment trying to bring morning-style interviews to nightly news.

While Couric can wish for more women at the anchor desk publicly, network heads will not give a woman the chance until there’s proof that another female anchor can bring ratings.

It’s a business, after all. Sponsors need the numbers! And the role of TV news host is no place for imposed race/sex/age quotas.

But don’t lose heart Katie. Women do have roles as backup anchors and weekend anchors on almost all networks. So, in that way, women are making inroads, just like you did backing up anchors at NBC when you got your start.

I can see another stately woman rising through the ranks and becoming a nightly news anchor in the next 20 years.  Or, even earlier, I can see a man/woman pair co-anchoring the news, much like local newscasts in many markets around the country.

That is…if there STILL ARE nightly news programs left…

Thanks to the Drudge Report for pointing out this story.

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