A historic day for news over the air

Eat your heart out Connie

Tuesday, September 5, in the year of our Lord 2006, at 6:30 EST, Katie Couric became the first woman to ever make $15 million a year reading someone else’s words during a network news cast broadcast live before a national television audience. Given the incessent hype and overwrought promotion, I felt it an obligation as a media junkie to tune in and witness HISTORY! (or is that HERSTORY!)

I was able to catch the A block. I was interrupted by my regularly scheduled duty of bathing the baby. In my mind I was live blogging the event. Consider this tape-delayed:

6:30 – It’s on. I’m there. Sorry Brit.

6:30.05 – Holy ghosts of Connie Chung Live! Is the opening supposed to be a subliminal nod to a former CBS co-anchor, or a lesson ignored? The show opens with Katie taking a step away from a giant screen and toward a camera dramatically zooming in on her (thankfully she didn’t stomp toward it as Chung did). She teases the night’s stories. Cheesy swoosh effects. Dramatic music. No smile. We’re hardcore now.

6:30.30 – Morgan Spurlock just flashed on the screen. I’m a fan of his. Suddenly I hear him talking in my head. “What’s it like to be only woman on network TV reading the evening news? Is there a glass wrist watch which traps women exclusively on morning shows, talk shows, cable shows and infotainment evening shows, never to see the dimming light of early evening? Katie Couric is about to find out. She’ll be anchoring the CBS Evening News … for the next 30 days.”

6:30ish – Cut to the new official CBS News jingle, produced by Oscar-winning themester James Horner. It’s a very nice instrumental remix of the old theme, stretched out a bit in some frames. More pause. Less rush. I’m not sure what to make of the Walter Cronkite voiceover proclaiming, “This is the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric.” It seemed a bit condescending, like Michael Jordan – and only Michael Jordan – announcing Lebron James in the starting lineup every night. Walt’s voice is meant to convey gravitas and esteem. It comes across like grandpa doting on his favorite granddaughter (Isn’t she cute! You want to see some photos? I have about 20 more in my wallet.)

6:31ish – Couric flashes her trademark smile and tilts her head just so. She says she’s very happy to be there. Translation – it’s good to be awake past 6 p.m.

6:31.30 – The first package of the night focuses on Afghanistan. It’s long. It comes as my wife announces me the winner of “who gives the baby a bath tonight” contest. It stole some of my focus. The portion of the report which stood out to me was the video of described Taliban fighters kneeling in prayer with a buttload of weaponry in front of them. The narration said this scene took place a few miles from an American base. I wondered why no action was taken. The narrator didn’t provide an answer, or maybe she did and I was distracted by bathtime. Still, nice report.

6:34 – The second package deals with President Bush and yet another speech on the War on Terror. No offense, but all his speeches on the subject tend to blur together, as do the responses to it. This report could be cut and pasted in tomorrow’s show and no one would notice.

6:36 – Ladies and especially gentlemen, we have legs! It took Couric less than six minutes to unfurl another trademark. Which begs the question, is this the first time a network TV news anchor flashed their gams on air? I’m not sure, but I bet Brian Williams is jealous.

3:36ish – The legs apparently threw Thomas Friedman for a loop. He’s over caffeinated in this segment, which flies by at the speed of a HeadOn commercial. It seemed to be a half-hearted attempt at being Bill O’Reilly, with smiles instead of smug. Can’t say I cared for it. It felt rushed and heavily edited for time, which is why most network broadcasts should avoid such segments.

6:38 – I’m off to clean the baby. I had little interest in seeing Tom’s (Though I did see it later. That has to be the fakest photo I have ever seen. Someone call Rather).

Overall, I’d grade the eight minutes I saw as a strong B, maybe A minus. It didn’t “feel” new or break any new ground, at least for me. It was just your basic, run-of-the-mill network newscast, only with a new gender and softer splashes of color. It was special only in the fact it was broadcast over the air, a delivery system denied Paula Zahn, Greta Van Susteren, Rita Cosby, Judy Woodruff, Connie Chung, Jane Skinner and others, all of whom have anchored twice the airtime as Couric, but without the self-referencing celebratory fanfare.

As an aside, I did enjoy last night for the nostalgia. It’s been years since I’ve made network TV news appointment viewing . Few segments last long enough to teach me anything, and the overdone cuteness and silly wordplay has always been a turnoff. Watching the CBS news last night sent me back briefly to evenings long gone, when as a child I’d visit with my grandmother and join her regular ritual. She always watched the network news, and still does. Doesn’t miss a night. I know no one of my age who does the same.

Unlike my blog delay, Althouse did live blog the show. She watched all 30 minutes. I’m glad I missed that too cute plug for a catchphrase. And TVNewser has plenty more in its Couric Watch.

UPDATE: I just heard again her opening intro, in which she segues from kids going “back to school” to Bush going “back to the drawing board” on the war. That is just sad.


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