Friday, April 7, 2006

On the Necessity of Having a Looker as Managing Editor of the CBS Evening News

Not long before he died, Mike Royko defended female lookers holding down top TV news anchor posts, saying whenever he got up in the morning and looked in the mirror at himself, all he saw was ugly, ugly, ugly—and he certainly didn’t want to continue with ugly when he watched TV news. I wholeheartedly share that view—of his having been ugly, of me being ugly, too, but more importantly to have a female looker on morning TV (because I don’t watch network evenings). The thing to remember is that commercial TV is a wafer-lite medium; since “Omnibus” with Alistair Cooke there has been no such thing as a profound commercial TV experience, so the thing to do is to follow it down to decadence and go for looks. If you must ask, my personal choice for CBS anchor is Naomi Watts, the female lead in “King Kong” but compared to all who anchor in the mornings, male and female, she is obviously over-qualified intellectually for the job.

That said, I have long been an admirer of Katie Couric, her giggle, the beguilingly school-girlish way she tosses her hair when confronting the great issues. There was a time when broadcast TV had a true female intellect—to cover the State Department. She was Pauline Frederick, a nice middle-aged overweight lady with tailored clothes, sensible shoes and a bun in the back who could easily analyze the Yalta papers. It was said, erroneously, that she and the bachelor UN ambassador Adlai Stevenson were fond of each other but that gentlemen, falsely accused of being uninterested in women due to lack of testosterone, was actually engaged in serious nightly discussions of the great issues with first that titanic intellect, Joan Fontaine as well as his deputy ambassador, Marietta Tree. Who were great lookers. This great statesman died of massive heart attack on a London sidewalk while Tree sought vainly to revive him by giving him what she tenderly described as “the kiss of life.” Then it was left to that oftentimes sodden bum Randolph Churchill, a former intimate of Tree, to say that if her kiss of life didn’t stir Adlai, he was truly dead.

Couric’s move to CBS Evening News means I won’t see her anymore since at that time I watch the only serious TV news, “Special Report with Britt Hume” which features no lookers (unless you have a thing for Mara Liasson of NPR for which, I sympathize with you). However for mornings, I am consoled that Meredith Vieira who is the porcelain looker on ABCs “The View” and Disney’s “Do You Want to Be a Millionaire?” may be moving in to NBC to handle Couric’s old job. I take it she won’t be asked to conduct a morning prime time demonstration of how to put on condom over a penis replica as Couric did after Magic Johnson came down with HIV. Indubitably the low point even for a medium which already had debased the public taste, because they billed this abuse of innocent child watchers as educational. If she couldn’t, a good pick would be Campbell Brown who does the weekend “Today” job, but perhaps she wouldn’t do because I perceive that in her reporting, she’s too smart and too well-bred to do the condom bit that Couric had no trouble with.

TV is a great scam and the only thing I can’t handle about the Couric matter is Les Moonves pretending that she was hired to add depth and ballast to his team. Com’on, she’s a marketing prop (just as a lot of pretty boys are), with a smile for which the word “perky” was invented—a smile that causes people to tune in…making big bucks for NBC which CBS hopes can work for it after the demise of Dan Rather who was caught faking “60 Minutes” to get George W. Bush. Sure, she’s worked at ABC, CNN, NBC and stations in Miami and Washington but leave it there: she’s a marketing prop. Not like the Tribune’s front-page puff piece enthused today (“she’s covered the Pentagon, wars and has grilled presidents”—right out of CBS’s flack shop: as if this grizzled veteran journalist just happens to be a looker with a beguiling kid smile—puleeze!). She confronted David Duke KKK guy running for governor of Georgia for the “Today” show: bet that took guts! How courageous a confrontation! “Coming up: Katie Couric confronts Eichmann’s kid!”

Looker or non-looker, CBS hasn’t had anyone with depth and ballast since non-looker Larry LeSeuer (about 275 lbs. worth), their Paris correspondent, covered DeGaulle’s election to the presidency from North Africa. LeSeuer spoke French like a native and years earlier had done brilliant radio play-by-play as Hitler marched through Belgium. Look, there is no market for depth and ballast and no one since LeSeuer has had depth or ballast: not Douglas Edwards, nor Murrow, Severeid, Cronkite and especially not Rather in the long history of CBS. So, welcome aboard Katie. To coin a phrase, you’re going to have to tie half of your brain behind your back in order to match your predecessors’ intellects.

Now, your turn to tell Reader’s Comments what female looker you would hire for the CBS Evening News. I’ve already picked Naomi Watts. Your choice?


  1. Tom what is your fascination with Katie? She exemplifies all that is wrong with women of her age group today. She is pushy, arrogant, liberal, conceited, condecending,... just like the suburban babes who vote for people like TOPINKA, BEAN, or BIGGERT. You know who I mean, the typically snotty AAUW types who try to "wear the pants" again and again.

    The MEDIA is set on pushing this new type of women on us again and again from Ellen D on down. Where is the class? Remember Lee Philipps?

    And Katie will show up just in time to PUSH PUSH PUSH another ...... you know..... HILLARY CLINTON!


  2. Though I should know better, I'll take your bait.

    I'm not familiar with enough national news personalities to be aware of all the possibilities. I never watch the morning network news shows and lately I haven't even been watching the evening network news with much regularity. I sincerely hope that, given the tremendous popularity of your blog, those I recommend aren't sickened or considered cursed by my mention.

    Though they may be embarrassed and resent being categorized as anything – lookers or not – I'd gladly put Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Mary Mapes, or Martha Raditz in control of any network evening news broadcast. Also, my appreciation of Helen Thomas continues to grow.

    Newshour regulars -- Margaret Warner, Gwen Ifill, Elizabeth Farnsworth, and Susan Dentzer – are remarkable, but I hope they're satisfied with their current responsibilities.

    All of the Chicago area female news personalities – especially WLS TV's Jordan, Burton, Schulte, and Brock – make the local newscasts enjoyable.

    My personal favorite – male or female – is Amy Goodman of, but her format would be spoiled, not improved, by the commercial and editorial demands of network television.