Forgive me if I don’t get all sisterly joyful over Today Show co-host Katie Couric’s milestone move to CBS. Forgive me if I laugh at the use of the word “milestone.” It’s 2006, and I just can’t get excited about the fact that “she’s gonna make it after all.” And don’t we have more important people–even media people–to talk about?
”Couric would be the first woman in broadcast network history to fly solo at 6:30 p.m.,” Howard Kurtz reported in an early story on the Couric move. Of course, that woman thing, besides the undisclosed raise she’s getting on her $15 million to $16 million a year salary, is what makes her career move big news. And Howard Kurtz is a media reporter, so of course it is news to him. But, more broadly speaking, why is it news?
The nightly news isn’t even the big deal it once was. According to “The State of the News Media 2004,” the “big three” no longer have the impact–the audiences–they once did. (In 1969, 85 percent of American homes were tuned in. Today, you can subtract that by 59 percent.)
I am no more interested in Couric hosting The CBS Evening News than I would be if Matt Lauer were. It should be just as interesting (not very) if Matt were getting an evening-anchor gig. She may have more hair, but her questions can be just as asinine.
In fact, the Couric buzz is only interesting in ways that are irritating.
First off, who hasn’t heard all about how men and women are supposedly equal? Equal pay for equal work! Half and half the household chores! Such popularly accepted mantras always ignore that a) many wage discrepancies reflect time women take off in their careers to have and/or raise children; b) the obvious fact that moms and dads are different, each with difference choices and responsibilities. But, anyway, point here is: If we’re so equal, why hail Katie more than a Lester Holt or any other male who could have plausibly gotten the spot?
And if we have to focus on women in the media, there’s a multitude of women much more interesting than Katie Couric.
Take these two examples: Syrian journalist Bahia Mardini and Yemeni Rahma Hugira. As Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute points out, “When U.S. journalists report the news, they need only worry about their ratings. When their Middle Eastern counterparts do so, they must worry about the safety of their husbands and children. The families of both Bahia Mardini and Rahma Hugira have paid a price, yet they do not hesitate. Their boldness makes U.S. obsession with fashion, style, and Katie Couric seem petty and sad.”
Now it’s not quite fair to compare Couric to gals whose lives are in serious danger under the brutal hand of tyranny. So how about a little closer to home?
Claudia Rosett, who covered the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising in China, exposed labor camps in North Korea and writes for the Wall Street Journal, among other places (including National Review Online), is the bane of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s existence–and thankfully so. For a while, Rosett seemed to be single-handedly exposing the corrupt Oil-for-Food scandal, which robbed the Iraqi people of much-needed aid.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll read People on the train. And I was a tad obsessed with Katie’s convenient black ensembles during the days after the 2004 presidential elections (mourning George Bush’s victory). But it’s not all that important. And neither is Katie’s new job
–(c) 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.