Microsoft raising bid for Yahoo? GE torpedoing economy and stock market? Who cares?! What people in this country really want to know is “Who killed Katie Couric?”
Earlier this week, someone whacked the nation’s first woman evening news anchor. Specifically, someone told the press about a meeting in February in which Katie and some senior CBS executives discussed whether Katie should remain an unpopular anchor of CBS Evening news or just give up and quit. The moment this nugget hit the wires, Katie became a lame duck. The only question now is not “if” she’s history, but when.
So who killed her? Because don’t think for one second that the person who leaked the news of the meeting didn’t know that that was exactly what he or she was doing.
If the NYT’s report this morning is correct, there are four suspects: CBS CEO Les Moonves, CBS News president Sean McManus, Katie’s agent, Alan Berger of the Creative Artists Agency, and Katie herself. Why? Because they were the only ones in the meeting.
Odds are, it was one of the two CBS execs, probably Sean. CBS doesn’t want to acknowledge that one of the main problems with the CBS Evening News is that “evening news” shows are obsolete, so it has to blame Katie (who, it is true, was more beloved in her morning slot). CBS also, however, doesn’t want to be seen as cutting and running on the nation’s first solo woman anchor, especially after it paid so much to get her there.
So how best for CBS to ditch Katie? Make it look like they had no choice. Or, rather, make it look like leaving the anchor slot might have been Katie’s choice. (“We tried to talk her out of it, but she decided that [INSERT NEW JOB HERE] was a better fit”). Odds are this is what happened: CBS just killed Katie.
On the other hand, maybe it was Katie herself. One of the reasons Katie isn’t resonating with viewers in the evening news slot is that she’s never seemed that comfortable in it herself. This doesn’t mean she can’t compete with the serious bid dogs of hard-core journalism–of course she can. It just means that what she was best at was what she was doing before, the mix of light, heavy, and featury stuff on the morning shows (and never hurts the country’s optimism to start the day with beautiful, smart, and perky).
So maybe Katie and her agent decided to pave the way for her departure by leaking news of the meeting, perhaps in an attempt to head off the inevitable chatter that she had been canned. If so, this strategy backfired: Most news coverage suggests implicitly that she’s getting canned. Katie and her agent are probably smart enough to have known that this is what the coverage would suggest, so we doubt she or her agent were the original leaker.
So who killed Katie Couric? Odds are it was CBS, most likely Sean McManus.
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