Anchors astray for CBS nightly news
Last week, Katie Couric put to rest the rumors that have been swirling around media circles for months by confirming that she will, indeed, be jumping from the couch on NBC’s “Today” to the anchor desk at CBS’s “Evening News” when her contract with the Peacock Network expires at the end of next month. However, despite the cushier hours, the extravagantly inflated salary (a reported $15 million annual contract, or, roughly $61,224 for 22 minutes of face time each night) and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first woman ever to anchor a nightly news program solo, whether Couric has the chops to fill the shoes broken in by her distinguished predecessors remains to be seen.Memorable moments in nightly news broadcasts of yore include Edward R. Murrow’s series of reports in 1954 that contributed to the eventual downfall of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, John Chancellor’s arrest on the floor of the 1964 Republican convention following his refusal to cede his spot to Barry Goldwater supporters and Arthur Kent ducking scud missiles while reporting from a Saudi Arabian rooftop in 1991’s Persian Gulf War. Besides reading the news and interrogating a handful of former and current U.S. presidents and other national and international dignitaries during her 15 year tenure at “Today,” Couric has honed her news skills interviewing the likes of former “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson on contracting hepatitis C from Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, Joan Rivers on finding love on Match.com and Sesame Street’s Elmo (presumably on life as a Muppet). Other unforgettable Couric “Today” moments include her attempts at Bed Top Yoga, baking ladyfingers and having a pigeon crap on her head while reporting from the Olympics in February. Couric also contributed to the unparalleled ratings success enjoyed by “Today” over the years by dressing as Donald Trump, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Gale, SpongeBob SquarePants, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins and Lucille Ball. She’s learned how to cook with truffles, spoken about the importance of sports bras and served as honorary maid of honor to the handful of brides who were picked by viewers to get married on the morning news program. While Couric’s skill set is seemingly matchless, NBC nevertheless announced that “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” host and “The View” moderator Meredith Vieira will replace her on “Today.” Although her news résumé boasts an Emmy-winning stint at “60 Minutes,” Vieira’s core qualifications for “Today,” like Couric’s, are her extracurricular activities. Vieira hosted ABC’s “Countdown to Oscar” special and “The Miss America Pageant.” She also competed (and lost) on a celebrity edition of “Jeopardy!” NBC will reportedly pay her in the ballpark of $10 million a year for those sorts of gems.If Walter Cronkite ever donned a costume on air during any of the 19 Halloweens in which he anchored CBS’ “Evening News,” all evidence has since been destroyed. The tabloids never bothered finding out if Chet Huntley, Hugh Downs or Harry Reasoner stepped out on the town with a string of girlfriends. Sam Donaldson has never made known if he highlights his hair. To this day, the shapeliness of Brit Hume’s legs remains a mystery, as does the amount spent by Jim Lehrer on his shoes (although Anderson Cooper’s wardrobe has presumably been covered extensively in fashion magazines and infotainment shows).Time will tell if being known as the perky princess of morning TV will impede Couric’s ability to guide CBS’ audience during times of breaking news, political crises or natural disasters. One media watchdog likens the network anchor job to the “Holy Grail of broadcast journalism.” More often than not, the expectation of evening news anchors is to demonstrate more authority, gravitas, stoicism and comfort than law enforcement and elected officials.The story on President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard irreparably marred the integrity Dan Rather earned during his 24 years as CBS’ “Evening News” anchor. Fortunately for Couric and Vieira, they’ll be starting their new jobs knowing their credibility has no where to go but up. Basalt resident Meredith Cohen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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