The Corner

Deeply Confused on TV News

David Bauder, an Associated Press writer on TV, has a new piece out on female news anchors that has a confusing thesis, to put it mildly. It starts this way:

With all the women in television news on both sides of the camera, you would think sexism was an issue relegated to the 20th century.

Yet recently a CBS News executive, herself a pioneer for women in the industry, said she believed that Katie Couric was having trouble catching on with the public as “CBS Evening News” anchor because she was the first solo female anchor for a network nightly news show.

So you’d think the argument is that backward U.S. audiences don’t want to watch women delivering the news. Only soon enough, the accusation is that news producers are the sexist ones, placing attractiveness over other qualities to the detriment of the news product. If that’s true, then, shouldn’t newscasts without attractive women do better? But at the local level, virtually all major newscasts include female anchors, usually easy on the eyes, and it is further pointed out that NBC’s Brian Williams is also on a ratings skid and that the cable networks, whose market share is growing, are full of presentable female anchors.

Just going out on a limb, here, but isn’t it possible that the CBS newscast isn’t very good, and that it tends to have weaker lead-ins in many major markets? Seeing Couric slide and assuming it must be due to someone else’s sexism — be it producers or the American public in general — is itself evidence of an unwarranted fascination with sex differences.