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About “Couric’s” Plagiarism


Today Howie Kurtz informs us that Katie, sweet, sweet, Katie ripped off someone else’s work for a personal commentary (more in the Media Blog). Kurtz writes:

Katie Couric did a one-minute commentary last week on the joys of getting her first library card, but the thoughts were less than original. The piece was substantially lifted from a Wall Street Journal column.

CBS News apologized for the plagiarized passages yesterday and said the commentary had been written by a network producer who has since been fired.

It sounds like that’s that, but what the story actually exposes is how news anchors are essentially props. In other words, the producer in question is fired, so now Katie can get back to using someone else’s words as her own, they just won’t be someone else’s words to the second degree. Here’s how I put it in a column a while ago, when CBS was still negotiating with Couric:

…one thing few people invested in the glamour and seriousness of big-league television news will say is what a sham the whole enterprise is. Broadcast journalism is one of the only fields in American life where the job gets demonstrably easier the higher you go. Or, to be more fair, the parts of the job that have to do with what everyone thinks of as “journalism” get easier and easier, and in some cases the journalism simply vanishes altogether.

Consider how the respected television analyst Andrew Tyndall defines the job of news anchor. The job has two parts, he told the Washington Post. First, they have to read the TelePrompTer. The second part involves “sitting behind the desk when there’s a crisis.”

One can be as charitable as possible, conceding that reading a TelePrompTer convincingly in front of millions of people is not a skill all of us have, and it’s still difficult to find what most of us would describe as journalistic substance there. And if CBS pays Couric the $15-million-a-year salary that’s been reported, she will be compensated to the tune of roughly $60,000 per half-hour of on-camera work (that assumes no vacation time, by the way).


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