September 06, 2006

Broadcasting From The Studios of WBFD...

Last night I, lemming that I am, tuned into the CBS evening news to see Katie Couric's debut. I'll admit here and now that the only reason I did so was because I was positive that it would be the watercooler topic of conversation - in the real or blogging world. It was more about survival than it was curiosity. Yet, I was curious. The short version of the summary? Big fucking deal.

Precisely at 6:30, Katie arrived, dressed in conservative black and white, caked in makeup so thick she appeared to have the skin tone of a Twinkie. While Katie was pleasant, she imparted about as much information as a Twinkie. Instead of hard-hitting news, the broadcast consisted of fluff. Sure, there was some news - an in-depth look at the Taliban and a report on the discovery of a new oil field in the Gulf of Mexico - but the majority of the content wasn't news. Instead, we were treated to a new 'free speech' featurette in which we were lectured by an over-rehearsed Morgan Spurlock about how all Americans really want just about the same thing. There was a self-serving 'snapshot' feature which capitalized on what I'm sure is a vast CBS vault filled with old footage. We got to see Suri Cruise which is just about as newsworthy as the fact that I had a grilled cheese sandwich and salad for dinner. And then we got to see a warm and fuzzy story about a nice man who delivers nice portraits to nice children in Latin America. Katie shared a little montage of anchors' sign off lines, apologized for not having one of her own then ended the broadcast by soliciting ideas from the viewer. Hard hitting indeed.

The bottom line is that I didn't feel like an average citizen trying to gather information about his world. By the end of the broadcast I felt as if I'd been transported back into the fifth grade and had been delivered a nice warm, fuzzy and completely unthreatening civics lesson. I felt coddled and condescended to. But I guess it's not all Katie's fault.

News can be dropped into three buckets. First, there's sensationalism, the hope that an audience will be drawn by exposing supposed evils of the world and that this view will, somehow, be assumed to be news simply because it's scary. Second, the fluffy and cozy news, the broadcasts that just make you feel comfortable that the world is headed in the right direction without ever imparting much news at all. Finally, there's fair and balanced journalism. Unfortunately, that third thing - the ideal - is sadly lacking in this country.

News can't be driven by personality, money or advertising. Instead it must be driven by the events of the day as they transpire around the world. The goal should be to fully inform the viewer, reader or listener to the maximum extent possible so that they may develop as complete a picture of the day's events.

Like I said, it's not Katie's fault. She's just a very highly-paid cog in the wheel of what has become very big business. It's more our fault because we settle for this infotainment. We, along with the companies that run the network news outlets, have let news broadcasts turn into well dressed, literate versions of Jackass with anchors tied to trees in hurricanes and staring down IEDs in Iraq. It's important that we're presented with a fair and balanced picture of the word and that that picture comes from as close to the front lines as possible. But it's a whole other issue when that picture is taken not for the value of news but for the attention it brings. Special interests and cults of personality have no business in the news.

But like I said...Katie? Big fucking deal.

Posted by Chris at September 6, 2006 07:17 AM

Big fucking deal indeed. Couric gives me nightmares.

Posted by: Mel at September 6, 2006 07:24 AM

I didn't watch. I don't really care. I think that everyone is making a huge deal out of nothing, and I don't understand. So, she's a girl. And she's doing the evening news. Big deal. It's not like she's been elected president or something...

Posted by: Alissa at September 6, 2006 07:49 AM

Regis (Philbin for those not on first name basis with the man) beat you to it my friend. Yesterday morning he said something like, "What's the big deal? Katie Couric has been reading a teleprompter for a million years!" Exactly. I mean, as a woman, hey, great. More power to her but I wish we were at a point where something like this was such an everyday thing that it didn't demand all this useless attention.

Posted by: pea at September 6, 2006 07:50 AM

Here, here!

We watch our local 10 pm news as we drift off to sleep. Why not pay more attention? Because they don't report anything "worth it." We watch the news for the weather.

I spent awhile trying to track down "Great news" but the news that's real news, the news from Bucket #3, is often depressing. Similarly, I care not to be pumped full of news from Bucket #1 or Bucket #2 because it doesn't seem to have much value.

I have trouble with news, in general. Kind of like water.

Two days full of controversy! Hot damn, we're on a roll!

Posted by: Emily at September 6, 2006 07:51 AM

She's "jumped the shark" in my opinion. Morning news is where she should have stayed. That's her thing. This? Not so much. I'm underwhelmed.

Posted by: wordgirl at September 6, 2006 08:11 AM

Is it just me or did she acquire Michael Jackson's nose while she was away?

Posted by: JuJuBee at September 6, 2006 08:20 AM

Darn, I missed it.

Posted by: ann adams at September 6, 2006 08:32 AM

I was pretty dissappointed by her broadcast last night too (although, I'm going to admit I was excited to see pictures of the Cruise baby, but mostly because she's an adorable baby and not because she has famous parents). She can be so good, and she's an excellent interviewer. I hope that it only gets better from here.

Posted by: Jessie at September 6, 2006 08:50 AM

So not having TV I didn't miss much eh? But, damn, I so wanted to see Suri!

Posted by: Heather at September 6, 2006 08:58 AM

It is alarming that the news has become as sugarcoated as the cereals my children covet.

It is one more thing seriously wrong with this country, that stems from this administration.

Posted by: jen at September 6, 2006 08:59 AM

People still watch the news on tv??

Posted by: Kaz at September 6, 2006 09:01 AM

Dump me into the who gives a rat's ass crowd. I don't watch news on tv as a rule, and when I do, it's the local news. Generally speaking, I prefer to read my news online and pick and choose what I learn more about. And as for Katie, I've never been a fan anyway.

Posted by: Traci at September 6, 2006 09:05 AM

Who's this WE you speak of? I havent watched the news in years - it's the only thumbs down on my tivo. If it ever becomes news again maybe Id watch.

Posted by: That Girl at September 6, 2006 09:07 AM

so, what kind of dressing did you have on the salad?

Posted by: monique at September 6, 2006 09:24 AM

Wait? Something happened? I should really pay more attention.

That said - I'm hungry for grilled cheese now. AND I had a salad for dinner last night too! With Ranch - how about you?

Posted by: Autumn at September 6, 2006 09:34 AM

Don't let her off so easily. She's got serious editorial control as part of her deal.

I didn't watch, but I am jealous of the grilled cheese sandwich, though.

Posted by: Pammer at September 6, 2006 09:35 AM

I detest Katie Couric. She stands for all the things in a woman that makes women look like mindless pieces of fluff!

Posted by: Maribeth at September 6, 2006 10:00 AM

You feel dirty now, don't you? Admit it. Like when you go to a chain restaurant instead of that cute little independent bistro.

I actually missed it, but I'm glad, because um hello? Did anyone not see the baby toupe? Am I the ONLY one?

Posted by: statia at September 6, 2006 10:07 AM

I almost never watch the evening news anymore for precisely that reason -- all three networks carry the exact same stories, and none of them give the news any depth. I'm not sure I'll ever forgive the news people of this country (TV and print) for the complete pass they gave the Bush administration on all of the lies that led up to the Iraq war, and for all of the stories they continue to ignore. I'm more likely to watch the BBC now.

Posted by: bad penguin at September 6, 2006 10:11 AM

It's very discouraging to watch the news these days. I can't make it through an entire segment without yelling at the tv or thinking, why are we supposed to care about this??? Baby Suri is the perfect example. Why do I even know this child's name?

Posted by: kim at September 6, 2006 10:37 AM

Dude, right on. Except that wifey and I can't even watch the news when I like the people. I have too many TiVo'd episodes of MXC to view to watch something boring like the news. If it's THAT important I'll find out from y'all that do or from Yahoo. Otherwise, who gives a flying shit. The news. Ha.

Posted by: andy at September 6, 2006 10:42 AM

I stopped watching televised news of any kind when my son was born, nine-and-a-half years ago. I knew that at some point he'd start taking in the words and the pictures and since I didn't know exactly when that would be, I decided to just stop right away.

My life has been better for it, I'm certain. I started relying on NPR and the BBC on the radio (only when little ears weren't around). NPR gives a nice variety of news and talk (about books! I love books!). The BBC has possibly the best news service I've ever encountered. Plus, I get to hear British and Irish and Scottish accents while I get my WORLD news.

Posted by: candace at September 6, 2006 10:53 AM

I hate the news. We watch local news only to make fun of it. Snobby? Yes. But we don't care. I just can't stand it. For all the reasons you mentioned.

Posted by: Kristen at September 6, 2006 10:56 AM

Heh. You said cog.

I saw the picture of Suri on Vanity Fair's website this morning. Doesn't she looks like one of those creepy haunted kid that looks freakishly like Tom Cruise?

Posted by: oakley at September 6, 2006 10:57 AM

i'm so glad that i didn't watch... it bad that i would have loved to have seen Suri Cruise. she's like polkeroo. wait, is polkeroo canadian?

Posted by: ali at September 6, 2006 11:35 AM

News. Bleh. It's all a bunch of dribble if you ask me. We never get the truth, just fluff. I prefer to get my info off the internet. MSNBC is ok. If I do watch the news, I watch 6ABC out of Philly. I love it when they make fun of each other on the air. Other than that, who gives a flying rat's ass about Katie Couric or Suri!

Posted by: Michelle at September 6, 2006 12:08 PM

Here's my question: is the news fluff because she's just not late-night-news material or because she's a woman? Is she being held down by administrative types who are unconsciously (or consciously) keeping her in her place as a woman? Or is she being detrimental to women by perpetuating the stereotype that women are all fluff and no news?

Okay, so maybe that isn't an actual stereotype. But when you watch the news, who tends to do the human interest stories? Or the fluff? Women.

Um. I blame Eireann for this! It's all her fault.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at September 6, 2006 12:17 PM

I didn't care enough to watch. Looks like I didn't miss anything...

Posted by: Lisa B at September 6, 2006 12:23 PM

You know she always looks like a Sears catalog model to me

Posted by: Snidget at September 6, 2006 12:31 PM

I was wondering what you had for dinner.

Posted by: Jessica at September 6, 2006 12:40 PM

You are so bang-on with this one. I didn't get to see it--I was watching more important stuff (Big Brother). ;)

But, I heard it on the radio. I was appalled. The music was RIDICULOUS. The headlines were RIDICULOUS. So much DRAMA! It was worse than CNN. I thought she sounded so rehearsed and unnatural. So first-year journalism school. It's not her fault, though. It's what CBS and apparently a lot of the world wants.

Posted by: Haley-O at September 6, 2006 01:25 PM

Whoa....Stop the presses. You had a grilled cheese AND a salad for dinner.

Posted by: William at September 6, 2006 01:28 PM

So, I wasn't the only one to watch just for the sake of seeing what Katie's first night would be like. I'm usually underwhelmed by television news; I wasn't disappointed. Seemed like a lot of commercials; I felt like I had to pick up the TiVo remote again as soon as I set it down.

Posted by: Robin at September 6, 2006 01:48 PM

Ugh. Yes: I totally agree with pretty much everything you said in this post. Katie=whatever. Suri=whatever. Loved the comparison of "news-worthiness" to your grilled cheese & salad. Very nice. :)

Posted by: Kristina at September 6, 2006 02:03 PM

amen! brutha!

Posted by: Lisa at September 6, 2006 03:44 PM

So did you have a twinkie or not?

I tought you were leading us on with a big punchline only to fall with an empty stomach after the grill cheese/salad combo.

The suspense of this story is killing me.
Angry and Hungry

Posted by: DavidR at September 6, 2006 04:14 PM

(found your site via Rockstar Mommy)

I rarely, if ever, watch tv news in America. The closest I ever get is the Daily Show. Call me old fashioned, but I actually read the newspaper in the morning.

Sometimes I watch the news when it's blaring at me when I'm in the gym. This doesn't happen that often, because I don't go to the gym as often as I should. The last time I went and the news was on, it went something like this "bird flu, bird flu, bird flu, puppy in a well, bird flu, celebrity did something stupid, bird flu."

I'm convinced that the goal of our media is to make us scared and stupid.

Posted by: Hope at September 6, 2006 04:19 PM

THIS is why you skipped RockStar?!

Posted by: s@bd at September 6, 2006 07:48 PM

your readers are the best!

I, too, am on that rat's ass boat that I just gave away.

Suri IS beautiful...but it's NOT news. She's 4.5 months old, for God sake. The only reason she's in the news is because they toyed with everyone to the point where anyone who cared thought the kid was either retarded or deformed. Nice.

As for Katie, she's like the biggest, fake-est sorority sister I've ever seen. Hard hitting news?--NOT. Christmas newsletter??-YES.

I hope she doesn't get punctured by a stingray.

(and you thought you were a dick.)

Posted by: kristen at September 6, 2006 08:18 PM

Didn't watch Katie. I watched Mike Rowe on his 100th dirty job...he rocks!! ;-)

Posted by: Ginny at September 6, 2006 09:00 PM

I wasn't that impressed either. I watched the entire 30 started out bad and got worse as it went on.

Hey, you should send in a closing suggestion: "I'm Katie Couric. Big fucking deal."


Posted by: Colleen at September 6, 2006 09:14 PM

Yet another of TV's super-annoying personalities. I'm so not looking forward to seeing her "interview" anyone-- the few "interviews" I've seen her do so far in her career (and remember, she told us all she wants to be the next Barbara Walters) have been completely vapid and exremely painful. Count me out of watching any more of her perkiness... I have better things to do.

Besides, I'm not counting on getting anything worthwhile from network news- I agree with your assessment of our "infotainment" system.

Posted by: Sassy at September 7, 2006 12:28 AM

You're right. The definition of news has changed. It no longer means "something new" it is entertainment or better something sensational.

This always cracks me up. How many house fires do you usually see in the newspaper vs. the local tv news? A dog's house could burn down and they would send someone "live" to the scene to get the video.

Posted by: Debbie at September 7, 2006 05:48 AM

I've gave up on the evening news a few years ago. I stick to the 10 minute headline news on CNN, the internet and The Daily Show. It makes sorting through the bullshit much simpler.

Posted by: wendy at September 8, 2006 11:38 AM

I agree with you about the Couric newscast. I know CBS is trying to go in a "new" and "different" direction, but that shouldn't mean the dumbing-down of our national 6:30 timeslot. I wanted to support Katie because of the whole "first permanent female newscaster" thing, but I won't be able to do so if the program continues like this.

Even my mom agrees. We were watching the show last night and they were talking about the inoculation that medical professional have recently started giving to pre-teens and young girls, before they have sex for the first time, to prevent diseases that can cause cervical cancer. After it was over my mom said, "I learned more about that in one paragraph of an online news article today than I did in that entire segment."

Posted by: Zandria at September 8, 2006 02:55 PM

Fortunately, haven given up televised news years ago, this couldn't have less effect on me except for reading about those that did tune in.

From the sounds of it, the decision of CBS though does sound rational now though, because if they even keep a small percentage of the people that tuned in to see that first broadcast, she will be a boon to the Rather-less debacle that has become CBS news.

It's important that we're presented with a fair and balanced picture of the word and that that picture comes from as close to the front lines as possible

Excuse me, there is somebody here that wishes to speak to you. He claims to be an attorney representing Rupert Murdoch.

Posted by: Latte Man at September 10, 2006 09:25 PM