Sunday, April 9, 2006

This Whole Katie Couric Thing

By now I am sure everyone has heard the news. After fifteen years Katie Couric is leaving Today for CBS where she will become the first woman to anchor a weekday, evening network newscast on her own. As the co-host of Today, Meredith Vieira of The View will replace Couric.

As might be expected, Couric's move is receiving mixed responses. An Associated Press/TV Guide showed that 49 percent of people would prefer to see Couric in the morning, with only 28 percent preferring her in the evening. This could be a bad sign for CBS, if not for the fact that about half of the people responding to the poll said that they would be willing to give Couric a chance as an evening anchor. Of course, there are many doubters when it comes to Couric anchoring The CBS Evening News. As host of Today she was required to do everything from interview heads of state to dressing up as SpongeBob Squarepants. As a result there are those who think that Couric lacks the seriousness to be an evening anchor.

Personally, I have no real objection to Couric taking over The CBS Evening News. It must be pointed out that two alumni from Today have made the move to evenings in the past. Tom Brokaw was the host of Today years before he anchored the evening newscast at NBC. Barbara Walters was also a co-anchor on ABC's World News Tonight for a brief time. If they made the move to evenings, I can see no reason why Couric can't either. Granted, she has dressed up as SpongeBob Squarepants (it was Halloween, for gods' sakes...), but it seems to me that she can be serious when she wants to be, as when interviewing presidents or political candidates. Indeed, while Today has its share of frivolous moments, it is ultimately a news programme. While there are others I would rather see take over CBS's evening newscasts, I have no real objections to Couric.

It is a bit more difficult to gauge the public's reaction to Meredith Vieira taking over Couric's position at Today (a position for which she beat out Today news reader Ann Curry and Today Weekend anchor Campbell Brown). As far as I know none of the big polling places have asked people what they think of Vieira as Couric's replacement, but the impression I have gotten from a smattering of blogs and various polls conducted on websites is that it is not a popular idea. On most blogs I have read there is a marked preference for either Ann Curry or Campbell Brown as co-host of Today. In nearly every poll I have seen on the web, Vieira ranks a distant third to Curry and Brown.

As for me, I agree with most of the blogs I've read and polls I've seen. Quite frankly, I just cannot take Meredith Vieira seriously as a journalist. Okay, I know she spent over ten years at CBS News. She was even a correspondent for Sixty Minutes and sometimes anchored their morning newscast. Once she moved to ABC, she was the chief correspondent for Turning Point. Since then, however, she has been one of the hosts of The View, host of the syndicated version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and even emceed the Miss America pageant. To me Meredith Vieira taking over Couric's position would be something akin to Regis Philbin taking over from Matt Lauer. She may have been a serious journalist at one time--now she is simply a talk show host in my mind. I must admit that I prefer either Ann Curry or Campbell Brown over Meredith Vieira, as I can both take them seriously as journalists. And Campbell Brown has the additional advantage of being utterly adorable (okay, one doesn't need to be adorable to be a TV journalist--gods know, neither Barbara Walters nor Dan Rather could be called "adorable"--but I must admit that "adorableness" makes me more likely to tune in...).

Anyhow, I suppose we can only wait and see how all of this turns out. Will the public accept Katie Couric as a nighttime news anchor? Will the public accept Meredith Vieira as the co-host of Today? Right now I don't think anyone can truly say for sure how things will go. One thing I can say, it will be an interesting year for network television newscasts.

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