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The Clickety Stiletto Heels of Katie Dearest Click Towards CBS
By Ed Driscoll · April 5, 2006 04:48 AM · Oh, That Liberal Media!

A year ago, Myrna Blyth, the former editor of Ladies Home Journal wrote of Katie Couric:

Andrew Lack, former president of NBC, described Katie, during the good times, as a "fist in the velvet glove," while for years her staff has called her "Katie Dearest." Bryant Gumbel, who was considered the heavy when they were Today Show co-anchors once complained, "I've had one assistant for 18 years. Somebody who shall remain nameless went through five in five years. I had one makeup and hair person the whole time I was at NBC. Somebody who shall remain nameless went through three or four." Katie has also pushed out several of Today's executive producers, sending one packing just last week. The show has had four top producers since 2001. Here-Today-gone-tomorrow has now become a career path at NBC.

When I was a magazine editor, in my personal dealings with Katie I found her both demanding and petulant. But the stress of crashing ratings has obviously made her inner Cruella de Vil always there under the surface emerge full-time. Alessandra Stanley writes, "Lately her image has grown downright scary: America's girl next door has morphed into the mercurial diva down the hall. At the first sound of her peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the lights."

And now those clickety stiletto heels click down the street to CBS. Jonah Goldberg has some thoughts on this phase of Katie's career:
There is nothing the press likes to talk about more than the press, so we can be sure we will be hearing about Couric's career move ad nauseam. Much will be made about Couric the Female Pioneer who has finally broken the glass ceiling for female news anchors (though Connie Chung did briefly co-host CBS Evening News). Others will find even more evidence that it pays to be a conventional knee-jerk liberal in the mainstream media. Most media critics, however, will focus on the inside-baseball stuff like ratings and staff musical chairs at the various networks. You can be sure that TV writers will form something of a Manhattan Project to discuss her hair, clothes and level of perkiness once she starts reading a TelePrompTer every night.

But 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."

In England, at least they're honest about calling television news readers what they are: television news readers. But that's never been the case in the US, as television writer Burt Prelutsky once observed:
You can go back to Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, John Chancellor and Walter Cronkite. We treated them all with a deference that was totally out of proportion to the work they did.
It does seem that nowadays, it's mostly those who are actually in the business who still employ that same level of deference. The rest of us have moved on--and in the case of television news, often simply turned the TV off.

Update: The Political Pitbull has much more on Katie, including a link to an American Digest post that suggests that NBC is releasing unflattering photos of Katie as a parting shot now that she's leaving.

That sort of thing seems to be SOP at NBC these days.

Update: More Katie-related snark here.



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