Friday, May 05, 2006

Anchors and News Readers

I'm a philosophy teacher. I'll be the first to admit that when I say "I don't get it," I'm usually being disingenuous. It's an old classroom trick. But this time I really don't get it. Katie Couric, anchor of CBS Evening News? I've never been a fan, so maybe the fact that I simply find her grating is biasing my view, but... Katie Couric?

I heard an opinion piece on NPR a few weeks ago arguing that the shock at the move was based on sexism. No, I was really glad to have Madeline Albright as our Secretary of State, but at the same time, I really would prefer that Vanna White not be put in that role. It isn't a matter that females can't project the same gravitas as someone with a deep Cronkite-like voice. I think Margaret Warner and Gwen Ifill, for example, do fine jobs over at The NewsHour and that is a much more sober program.

But Couric is no Margaret Warner. The executive producer said, "What people appreciate most about Katie is that she's real -- that's really her up on the screen. I cannot wait to start working with her." Is it that she's real? Real what? Is it that they are trying to put a happy face on the news hoping that it will increase ratings. People don't want heavy, they want light. Is it just the next step in marketing the news? You've got FOX for the meat and potato conservative dads, now you need someone the soccer moms will like.

But if that is right, am I just doing the same thing? I'm a nerd and I want a news nerd, damn it. How dare they take this position away from us. We deserve the spot. Maybe it is a Freudian subconscious kind of reaction stemming from a lingering resentment of all the perky, good looking cool kids in high school, the fraternity/sorority/lacrosse player types in college who got all the dates. (Before someone brings it college, I played lacrosse, but I was not a lacrosse player.) They always had the social power and now they are taking away one of the things that was ours.

Or maybe the corporate, network evening news, as irrelevant as it is becoming, is still something that should be more serious, more intellectual, more staid. Like health care, when you make it just another product in the marketplace that you are trying to sell for maximum profit, you are undermining the product itself and doing a disservice to society. Maybe, like asparagus, some things just aren't meant to be chocolate coated with rainbow sprinkles.