Politics & Policy

Grrrl Power

Fighting over prime time.

Here’s the dish: Katie is going to CBS to anchor the Evening News. That’s been buzzing about for weeks, and it’s the reason why Her Cuteness wasn’t so visible during NBC’s Olympic coverage. (Not that anyone much noticed, since so few tuned in for the tedium from Torino. Who really wanted to see our gold medal hopefuls slip-sliding away?)

But now it seems that Diane Sawyer has told friends and colleagues that, if Katie goes to CBS, then she wants to anchor ABC’s World News Tonight. It’s just like senior year of high school, with the class’s two golden girls vying to be named “Most Popular” in the yearbook.

Frankly, late last year, I wasn’t so sure Katie would want to depart her cozy Today Show perch. Back then, I don’t think she considered the newly appointed ABC co-anchors Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas quite in her exalted, $13 million league. She certainly gets the big bucks from NBC, earning far more than Tom Brokaw’s journeyman replacement Brian Williams. Katie’s contract ends May 31, and she is not even supposed to discuss other offers until two weeks before that date. But rumor has it NBC has offered Katie, who likes to portray herself as just-your-typical-working-mom, $20 million to stay, please, stay.

At Today she could, of course, continue to snipe at those who don’t agree with her liberal views, which she rarely tries to hide. Last week Katie gave a typical hard time to Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, who is developing a town in Florida called Ave Maria. The town, which will have a Catholic university at its center, will try to promote traditional values. There will be no adult bookstores or topless clubs. But “traditional values” obviously posed a problem for our Katie. She wondered if “people will see [the community]…as eschewing diversity and promoting intolerance.”

What makes this all so titillatingly buzz-y is that Diane Sawyer has become part of the evening-anchor equation. While Bob Woodruff is convalescing, Charles Gibson and Diane have co-anchored ABC’s World News Tonight with Elizabeth Vargas. And Diane has now been telling her friends she likes it. In fact, she is reportedly “obsessed” with getting the anchor job, since she has become convinced Katie is going to CBS–which makes the usually affable Charlie Gibson more than a little annoyed. Why? Because he wanted to be the World News Tonight anchor after Peter Jennings’s death, but was passed over. Diane’s new ambition is also giving Elizabeth Vargas, who is pregnant, a very serious case of Good Morning America-sickness. There have been, it’s been reported, many tense, high-powered meetings over at ABC.

Who knows whether it will happen? But having diva Diane in one corner and diva Katie in the other sounds like a very possible scenario. Certainly it might kick start, at least for awhile, the evening news ratings, which have been plummeting. Can’t you just imagine the new evening news sets highlighting Katie’s killer legs and Diane’s Armani style. And what about the competition between them for the big “get,” scoring the exclusive interview with a hot newsmaker.

When magazine shows were in their heyday, Barbara Walters (who no doubt is sulking a bit about all this) used to compete fiercely with Diane as well as with Katie. To get the “get,” Diane was known to pen sweet, little, handwritten notes, purr on the telephone, send thoughtful gifts, and ask softball questions without follow-ups. She once sent Private Jessica Lynch a locket, and got the interview.

Katie uses similar tactics, including sending a little note to the Unabomber which read, in part: “I wanted to let you know personally that I would be interested in sitting down with you for an interview. It would give you a chance to explain your experiences to our huge audience and also to share your views and concerns, which I know you have long wanted to do.” Hey, she could use the same note for Osama!

It really could happen. And then what would NBC do? Well, I’m sure Oprah has long thought she is ready for prime time.

Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...


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