Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Couric & Co. News Blah… I Mean Blog

By Lars Trodson

Katie Couric, the anchor of the CBS Evening News, hosts a blog, called Couric & Co. The blog entries, written by the CBS news team, are chock-a-block with cliché. If the point of the thing is to have a blog just because everyone else has a blog, then I think they probably have more to do with their valuable time.

First, let’s look at a post by Couric on July 12:

“Lady Bird Johnson was a force to be reckoned with -- as her husband would be the first to tell you. She was a real ‘steel magnolia.’”

That’s it. Is this the kind of writing -- as brief as it is -- that we can expect from the anchor of the CBS Evening News. Is this the best she can do, really? “As her husband would be the first to tell you…”? A present-tense reference to the late President, who died in 1973? What? Oh, and the blog encourages you to watch a clip of the Couric newscast, which, if you do, I wonder if they’ll count you as a viewer.

On July 15, White House correspondent Bill Plante wrote this about Lady Bird Johnson: “Anyone who lives as long as Lady Bird Johnson -- 94 years -- is bound to leave a lot of memories. And anyone who lives that long is fortunate if - as seems to be the case with Mrs. Johnson - those memories are warm and positive.”

Wow. Sure glad I spent some time reading that.

On July 12, Plante writes about the newly released trove of recordings made in the Nixon Oval Office. Right at the start, he says: “It's hard to deny the guilty pleasure inherent in listening to other peoples' private conversations, particularly when you know most of them had no clue they'd be overheard for history.”

Guilty pleasure or not, it’s hard to stomach a reporter glossing over tapes recorded without people’s permission when we have a huge, contemporaneous debate going on right now over wiretaps.

Another posting on July 12 reveals that Michelle Miller, a correspondent for CBS News, decides to avoid the “steel magnolia” cliché when describing Lady Bird:

“The wife of the president who signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Act in 1964, I would later discover that this yellow rose of Texas was truly a magnolia of steel in the fight to win sympathy for blacks in the South.”

You see, she flipped that “steel magno --” oh, never mind.

Here’s a positively fascinating posting, from July 11, which you can read here in its entirety:

“A frequent member of the "company" at "Couric & Co.", Mark Knoller has filed this little reflection on the new White House briefing room over at Public Eye:

In a ceremony more closely associated with supermarket openings (Ed. Note: I had no idea that ribbon cuttings were “closely associated” with the opening of supermarkets and I bet you didn’t, either.) , President Bush this morning cut a red, white and blue ribbon to inaugurate the newly renovated White House Briefing Room.

The event also marked the return to the West Wing of the White House press corps -- ending an 11-month exile in a conference center across the street and down the block.

“Welcome back,” said the President -- adding a little needle to his greeting, “We missed you -- sort of.”

He spoke from a brand new, high-tech podium.

Gone is the simple blue-curtain backdrop.

It now looks like something from the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise. (Ed. Note: Must be really cool!)

It’s got stage lighting, rotating panels and two 45-inch video screens on which the White House can display charts, graphs, logos or commutation announcements.

The room has new furniture, carpeting and marble slabs on the wall. It smells like a new car -- though press rooms have a way of quickly taking on the aroma of its occupants. (Ed. Note: Ha, ha.)

Head over to PE for more. Take a deep breath and get a good whiff.”

That’s the end of the post. I mean, what the…? This from the Tiffany Network? Where is the writing? The insight? The importance to the general public? I hate to say it, but I expect profundity from the network news. I know people will laugh when I say that, but why shouldn’t we? Why should we not expect to be told unexpected things in a way that makes us think, understand, and appreciate and -- better yet -- act on what we hear from these correspondents?

Here is what CBS News needs to do: Stop kowtowing to its celebrity anchors and demand that everyone start writing news that is relevant to the people. CBS stuck with Dan Rather so long that it destroyed any viewer loyalty, and now they need to stop thinking about Couric’s contract and instead about what we need to hear about the world around us.

With that in mind, it is time to send Couric over to “60 Minutes” and replace her with Lara Logan. Logan was born in South Africa, and at least one of the network news program should have a more global feel to it, considering how much of what is happening internationally affects us here within our own borders.

It isn’t that Couric is terrible -- she’s no worse than Brian Williams at NBC, who is as starched as the collars of his shirts.

But Logan -- a good, tough, clear reporter -- is the long-term answer for the CBS Evening News. And she does not have to write a blog.