|Rather's Inconvenient Truth
Posted 06/18/2007 ET
Updated 06/18/2007 ET
Ratings at the used-to-be-taken-seriously CBS Evening News broadcast have slammed into a metaphorical iceberg and the news-rats are scrambling for the lifeboats.
Consistently turning in record-low ratings for an evening news broadcast, many apparently “sexist” people began to suspect -- for some odd reason -- that the problem might have something to do with the woman in the anchor chair, and with the journalistic standards of the executives that put her in that powerful post. Their very own long-time anchor, Dan Rather, thinks that the broadcast has gone to the dogs.
But the truth-tellers at CBS News are having none of that. They know whose fault it is. It’s your fault.
When CBS’s already sputtering ratings fell into a terminal death spiral last month, Linda Mason, CBS’s Senior Vice President for Standards and Practices, proved that she and her comrades-in-denial at CBS News really have their finger on the pulse.
“I had no idea that a woman delivering the news would be a handicap,” Mason said.
The unenlightened mongrel horde (that’s us), she contemptuously concluded, “…seems to prefer the news from White Guys.” (Insert disparaging tone around “White Guys” with fingers-down-throat hand gesture.)
In an aggressive and probing interview with her trembling subordinates at the CBS News web site, Ms. Mason said, “I’m afraid that Katie’s paying the price for being the first woman.” Excluding, presumably, all of the newswomen that preceded her in various lofty posts.
This laugh-out-loud, politically correct, insult to their erstwhile viewers is a textbook demonstration of the “logic” that oozes from the typical Upper West Side liberal -- I mean, network news executive. It’s also a tiny but revealing peek-a-boo into the world of the network news editorial meeting. A brief glimpse at the world as they see it -- through the prism of “Race, Class and Gender.” (See Duke lacrosse coverage.)
Her conclusion is also what they call in the study of logic, a “fallacious syllogism.”
Two facts were provided to Ms. Mason (representing the American liberal) so that she could come to an incorrect conclusion. Fact 1: CBS’s ratings are in the toilet. Fact 2: the anchor is a woman. Fallacious conclusion: the public is misogynist and turned the channel simply because the anchor is a woman.
How could one arrive at any other conclusion?
Clearly it has nothing to do with Katie’s lack of credibility or gravitas. Or the fact that you can see her reading the teleprompter and trembling even through the softest of soft focus lenses. It has nothing to do with the fact that she has been giggling through morning show interviews with celebrity chefs for the last 20 years. No, once the geniuses at CBS in New York decided that she was the gateway to gender-neutral future, we were all supposed to accept their decision. Couric, they commanded, is the heir to the once-vaunted throne of Walter Cronkite. If the public fails to snap to, then all roads clearly lead to her genitalia.
The American public, which gave Couric giant ratings when she was at the Today Show was suddenly too sexist to watch her in the evening. It’s a time of day thing, apparently. Based on Ms. Mason’s analysis, Americans are good, open-minded and liberal at breakfast, but unredeemable misogynists by the time dinner is served.
Irrefutable logic, to be sure.
Maybe if Katie delivered the news in a white, embroidered apron from a studio decorated like a 1950’s kitchen we’d all tune in. She could open the broadcast with a nicely browned turkey on a platter, placing it gingerly on a French country table with lace doilies and then spend 30 minutes lying to us. The CBS Evening News with Barbara Billingsly.
In the mind of the American liberal, (read: news executive) their decisions and their world-view are necessarily “correct.” They are without flaw. They are infallible. Their decision to put Couric in “the chair” was a brilliant decision, and it was a feminist decision. Therefore, if the public fails to flock to Couric’s turned heel in the hope of touching the hem of her garment, there can only be one explanation. Americans in “the fly-over states” are not as enlightened as the Manhattan media magnates who convey their version of “the truth” to America every night.
If Couric were “a person of color” and the ratings didn’t roll in, then Americans invariably would be labeled as “racist.”
If the insightful Ms. Mason opened a chic Manhattan bistro, and the public didn’t stand in line to get in, they would doubtless be “anti- epicurean.”
While this whole episode has been quite entertaining, as we like our evening news to be, it got even better when Dan Rather jumped in with both feet -- in his mouth.
After occupying the very same anchor chair for 24 years, the now notorious Mr. Rather came out of the shadows this week and offered his take on the failing ratings to Joe Scarborough on MSNBC. Rather said that CBS screwed up when they put Couric in the high-chair.
“The mistake was to try to bring the Today Show ethos to the Evening News, and to dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience,” Rather insightfully and correctly stated.
And how did the indignant leadership at CBS respond to this condemnation by their senior statesman and veteran anchor? Did they object to Rather’s suggestion that they had dumbed down the news? No. Did they object to the suggestion that they had brought the Today Show ethos to the CBS Evening News? No.
Leslie Moonves, the president of CBS said the he found Rather’s comments to be “sexist.”
Being a charter member of the club, he knew how to respond. He knew that the only thing that he should take umbrage with was the violation of the code of political correctness. The rest of Rather’s indictment was okay with him.
They are in denial at CBS. The truth is that the public doesn’t trust CBS News. That’s why people aren’t watching. The decision to promote the morning show anchor that famously referred to President Ronald Reagan as an “airhead” only contributes to that lack of trust. Once the bad decision was revealed by record low ratings, the nit-witted CBS management compounded the problem with a response that is both insulting and revealing.
The public believes that CBS News has a liberal bias and advances the liberal agenda. Their former correspondent Bernard Goldberg believes the CBS is biased. We all know they are biased. Their response to their low ratings it to blame the American public and accuse us of collective misogyny is proof enough of their bias and their blindness. Their conditioned auto-response is to assume the posture of victim. If they were capable of embarrassment, they should be embarrassed.
The executives at CBS made a $15 million-a-year mistake. Katie Couric was the wrong person for the job. If they want ratings, they should try doing a serious, balanced news program presented by serious people. That’s not in the cards.