Katie Couric and the future of Evening News


If you watch network news – and if you do, give my regards to the other 17 people – this may be a shock: Katie Couric’s future unclear at CBS.

This past spring, CBS News president Sean McManus and executive vice-president Paul Friedman discussed whether to try to bring an end to what may be the last great experiment in network news: Katie Couric, anchorwoman. Though her reported $15 million annual contract is not up until next June, one idea that was floated was for CBS to buy out the remainder of Couric’s contract this September and put in someone new this fall, according to people familiar with the conversation.

She might ankle over to NBC, or CNN, where she will be paid great sloshing buckets of money again. What was the reason for the failure? Did she smother her perky sunny nature with ersatz gravitas? Plain ol’ sexism? (Ain’t gonna believe nothin’ lessin’ a man says it.)

Or perhaps the entire concept of the evening news, with Chet or Uncle Walt or Waco Dan handing down the stone tablets is a relic of the days when news was something they worked on all day while the soaps were going on, and delivered to us while we digested the pot roast. Last time I watched evening news with any regularity was in the early 90s, while working in DC – it seemed like an in-house channel, and told you how the rest of the country was hearing what you and your clever friends were talking about at lunch. But even then the model was fraying, thanks to CNN and Headline News.

Any hope for evening news, or will it be sitting around a bar with Newspapers in ten years, talking about the good old days? Any favorite anchors? For some reason I have fond memories of Frank Smith, partly because he was on the also-ran network of the day, ABC, and partly because he seemed grim and somewhat bitter about things. But we were an NBC family, possibly because my dad liked to laugh at Irving R. Levine. The combination of the nasal deadpan and the jaunty red bow tie struck him as deeply amusing.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive

    Katie Couric’s job is about as relevant to my life as the village blacksmith or the milkman or the typewriter repairman.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member

    Network news? Not so much. This from a big John Chancellor fan as a kid in the 70 – 80s. If there is breaking national/world news, I hit a Cable outlet. In all honesty, I get more breaking news in my Twitter feed, and then I hit my more frequented web aggregators for more detail. News radio seems to respond more quickly, as they have less prep to get to a live story. No camera, no camera man, no live producer. Just grab a cell phone and get on the scene. Newspapers can be quick as well, but they still have that infinitesimal delay of having to create the content, then get it posted to a website. So typically, radio is the speed king.

    Local news I typically hit at the 10 o’clock spot in the evening. A summary of the day’s events locally (of which, most I’ve already read online). Same with the morning news, which has evolved to a combo local-morning-zoo-news presentation. As for the Networks morning offerings, I can’t really find the distinction between Today-Good Morning America-Live with Regis & Kelly-Romper Room.

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  3. Profile Photo Member

    Opps, I neglected to observe – Irving R. Levine: the video Les Nessman.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    I’ve only watched Katie Couric’s CBS Evening News once, but I thought she did a respectable job of abridging and homogenizing a few of the officially-important stories of the day. If she were on at midnight, I’m sure I’d watch it more often, as a sleep aid.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member

    Sir James, Frank Reynolds or Howard K. Smith? I don’t know this Frank Smith fellow.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Contributor

    Duane: yes, d’oh, Frank Reynolds. At least before he was combined with Howard K. Smith in a horrible experiment that violated the laws of God and Nature. But not Roone Arledge.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Podcaster

    James – What was worse? The troika of Peter Jennings, Reynolds and Max Robinson or the pairing of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters?

    (And are really that old that all of these sans Walters are dead? Along with Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley…)

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Podcaster

    I mean ain’t WE old?

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member

    Yes network news is tired. But PBS NewsHour still manages to create smart, original content and have interesting discussions with a reasonably even hand on most issues. Smartest thing CBS could do would be to buy it — or even just simulcast.

    Alternatively, they could collect the like of Lileks, Long and Robinson and some not-so-strident voices from the left and offer 60 minutes of lucid discussion leavened with humor about the stories of the day.

    Or if that’s too scary they could buy Morning Joe away from MSNBC. That show is also highly watchable, assumes a reasonable amount knowledge heading into the discussion, and is fairly balanced.

    But guaranteed they’ll choose something far more mundane and ultimately turgid (Anderson Cooper!), continuing to grow ever more irrelevant as their core audience gradually passes away.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Contributor

    EJ: I have removed that threesome from my memory. It took bleach.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive

    I’ve lived overseas for so long the only Major Network nightly news I remember was Cronkite. I do watch Special Report every morning with my workout, with a little Cavuto thrown in. i thus assume there may well be some remaining potential relevance – although why anyone would spend precious moments of their life with Ms Couric, escapes me.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Inactive

    I remember Uncle Walt the most and I “liked” him when I was a child. But the evening news hasn’t been the same since Chinkley-Brinkley signed off and the country was middlebrow enough that the scherzo from Beethoven’s 9th could be used for the closing credits.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Podcaster

    On another thread I talked about how the MSM was going to go after the internet guys and tighten the rules on fair use. Now we have a lawyer who’s going to make a living suing the likes of us.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Inactive

    My favorite was CBS, which always ended with a Speech from the Throne by Eric Sevareid.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Inactive

    I check the Drudge Report and then Instapundit and Pajamas Media. Then a couple of gossip sites and of course, a couple of Twilight things. And now, Ricochet and Daily Caller and BoingBoing. TV? I can get what I want from Fox News clips on the web. Yep, I have a lot of time to fool around.

    I really dislike Kati Couric, and wonder how on earth anyone anywhere ever thought it would be worthwhile to pay her 15 MILLION DOLLARS per year to be an ‘anchor’??? Astonishing.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Inactive

    David Brinkley was my fav after Walter retired. Katie is unwatchable, as Matt Lauer would be. Now, upon arrival home, nothing is really news. I too check my Twitter feed a few times during the day. Just for kicks, if you need to watch news, Shep is the guy, especially if there is a car chase going on in California.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Podcaster

    There were a lot of things that happened during the day that weren’t earth-shattering enough to interrupt network programming but interesting enough to make the evening news. And that’s where we heard and saw those things first.

    Now the cable nets hits everything with a “BREAKING NEWS” animation and airs unedited, unscreened video the moment it hits the bird. By the time it gets to Katie, Dianne and Brian, everybody yawns and says, “That’s news?”

    It reached its nadir long ago.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Inactive

    Watching network news is like getting a root canal done without quite enough novocaine. Watching MSNBC is like getting a root canal done with no novocaine.

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  19. Profile Photo Member

    I liked Eric Sevareid. He had been around the block and knew what he was talking about. His little essays were trenchant and well-informed, even stylish. When compared him to dwarfs like Anderson Cooper and John King it is possible to see how far we’ve fallen. I met Walter Cronkite once and we talked about his enormous yacht. Uncle Walter lived like a plutocrat and of course he was a liberal. He would have accepted George McGovern’s offer to run as vice president if it had been made instead of only considered. McGovern didn’t think he’d accept.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive

    Katie Couric always drove me crazy. I could never take anyone serious who uses black eyeliner like they are tarring a roof. And the mascara is so heavily applied, that her lashes jut out like spikes from her beady eyes. Less is more, Katie.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Inactive

    News on PBS is worth watching? How can anyone abide the monotone voices, and NPR content? Personally I’d rather watch a test pattern. We record Special Report and watch it with dinner. The rapport between the editorialists in the last 20 (I wish it were 30) minutes is priceless. Charles Krauthammer just might be the most knowledgeable voice on TV today and only Fox has him. That alone is enough for me to stick with FNC all day.

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Member

    I miss Ted Baxter.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Member

    Well, at least we know that journalists are taught at Columbia to be even-handed, present all sides of an issue, and not display favoritism. Mike Allen of Politico is so careful to be unbiased that he hasn’t voted for years, lest it corrupt his coverage of events. This noble calling is well-illustrated here:


    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Member

    We never watched the network news in my house. My Dad didn’t like the Pronouncements From Upon High, though he did like Robert McNeil and Jim Lehrer on PBS, so we watched that. The little theme music stab still makes me nostalgic.

    We were, however, voracious consumers of the local television news reports. I miss the 6:00 local news. It was relevant more often than not and followed the life of the city, its interests and enthusiasms. Back in the day, every local station led off their newscasts with reports about the upcoming game between the Redskins and the wicked (and perhaps even demonic) Dallas Cowboys for a whole week leading up to the Skins/Boys game in DC. I do miss that.

    • #24
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