Friday, September 08, 2006

Katie, We Hardly Know You

Don’t people have anything better to do than castigate poor—well rich Katie Couric. She’s the anchor of a network news program which makes her visible but not really important in the greater scheme of things. The greater scheme being finding a cure for cancer or an antidote for aging, an adequate way to education children who live in poor areas or are abused or a great martini… I’m blurting meaninglessly and I didn’t mean to lose focus.

Anyway, I have watched her a four times this week and she’s watchable. Maybe her new voice overwrought with vocal variety combined with a little bit of too much animation and just a touch of frenzy, is different from her normal voice but it is television and there are expectations. CBS, like all the other networks, is trying desperately to attract young viewers. Young consumers simply buy more and varied product than older people. And the young will become older one day, so the advertisers are doing their best to establish some kind of product loyalty, which if the product stays on the market, will be the first thing the purchaser is going to use or buy for many years. For example, when we were but young pups Visa and Mastercard sent us all credit cards. We didn’t have to ask or apply or beg or anything. American Express put us through a terrible qualification ordeal, so millions of people didn’t bother with Amex and to this day use their Visa or Mastercard. That’s called product loyalty.

It’s a two-fold loyalty in television. Advertisers pay for time based on the number and age of the people who watch the show. Advertising dollars pay the network talent. If the viewer is loyal to the talent they will watch and the advertisers will be satisfied. The bottom line is that networks want to attract young people to attract advertising dollars. But they seem to being going about crafting this effort in foolish ways. They need to be thinking out of the box rather than just changing the wrapping. 18-25 year olds watch entertainment shows on television. They get their news from Comedy Central, SNL or the net. For the most part, they have no interest in the 6:00 news or in sitting in front of the TV gathering information they consider bleak or slow. But they all have computers and are much more likely to tune into the web than turn on to the tube. But not if it’s the same news their parents watch at 6:00. Ah ha – there in lies the problem.

The people who still watch the news are older and were brought up thinking the nightly news was where you got valid information. Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Bob Schieffer have that “this is the important news” approach to what they say on the air. Maybe part of it is a make or ‘daddy’ thing. I hope not but Bob Scheiffer proved that he could capture viewer by being who he was. And who he was had great clarity. And it wasn’t new viewers he attracted, it was old viewers simple changing their minds and their channels. What is the important news we need to hear? Probably items that have an effect our lives, like the economy or education or the war.

So what does Katie bring to the podium? CBS news will be different under her direction and she does have editorial control. From what I’ve seen so far she brings the idea that the guy who produced “Super Size Me” should do cutting edge commentary. She has decided that a little “Today Show” type entertainment stories can be passed off as news. The talking heads are younger and even with gray hair the doctors that do medical reports seem hipper. But she scowls in her interviews, as though that means she is serious. And her banter seems neither witty or honest. The CBS news, while all news is segmented, seems stilted. It could be that Katie, senior management and the crew are suffering first week nerves, but, and I could be wrong, they had one shot to keep all the curious news spectators tuned in to the station. Because once people turn back to the network with whom they have had a relationship, they probably won’t give CBS another chance. The problem is not necessarily Katie, but she is probably not the solution. I am the 6:00 news enthusiast and not Jordan. The problem is that the people who watch the news do not want to watch a morning show at night.

I like Katie Couric. I respect what she has made of her life, the love she clearly has for her family, the strength she has developed out of tragedy, and the impact she has had on fighting Colon cancer. God knows, even with all her money she has really been through it. But she doesn’t work for me on the nightly news because – and it may not be her fault
but I want to hear about what’s gone on in the world without frills or distractions from clothes, shoes, style of glasses, or type of hair cut . I can’t seem to get past what seems an over choreographed maybe even too chic and trendy, approach to significant but simple information. I like my newscast straightforward and the anchor to be someone I feel I know and Katie, we no longer know you. Were just sayin...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't decided yet. But, I was disappointed. I could give a flying fig about Morgan Spurlock. Between him and photos of Tom Cruise's baby, I thought my TV was stuck on Access Hollywood and not the "News".

I had hoped she'd bring hard news back to the nightly news. On her listening tour she said people told her they want MORE news? And, more than 30 minutes. Well, if she can't convince CBS to give more than 30 minutes, why waste more time with stupid segments? Did she not LISTEN?!

I'd like it if they'd actually talked about is happening in the world - and not just Iraq. Have they forgotten about the rest of the globe? What about Goma, DRC; Mauritania; Columbia; Canada? How about more interviews with people in Lebanon?

In the meantime, I'll just keep watching the BBC and switching back and forth between NBC, CBS and ABC (a must since all three seem to only have 5 minutes of anything concrete).