Monday, Dec. 25, 2006

Katie Couric

Breaking Up the Anchorman Monopoly
When Katie Couric, 49, was named the first solo female evening anchor, she came with a fat paycheck, a big name and high — often contradictory — expectations. CBS hailed her for breaking the gender barrier and called her the antidote to the "voice of God" anchor. Her detractors said her newscast was too feature focused for the serious issues of the day.

Yes, Couric's report had a folksy tone, added an Op-Ed segment and displayed Suri Cruise's baby pictures. But Couric also showed her interviewing chops, and her newscast grew to focus more on hard news. Hype and arrows aside, her program was a fairly standard newscast, treating largely the same stories and facing the same challenges as its rivals — namely, getting today's busy people to sit for the news at 6:30.

As it turned out, the newscasts finished November sweeps in the same order they had before Couric — NBC first, ABC second, CBS third — with each network's ratings slightly down over the year, continuing a long-standing trend. The first woman anchor had not much changed the evening news' numbers one way or another. Which, in the TV business, is perhaps the most meaningful kind of equality there is.