Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Good Night and Good Grief

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, but I never dreamed that it would happen this soon. Sean McManus, President of CBS News and Sports said yesterday that gender bias is to blame for the ratings failure that has befallen the cute and perky anchor chick over at Black Rock.

"I think it is a fact there are probably people, both men and women, who are perhaps uncomfortable having a woman anchor the news,” McManus told the media industry publication Broadcasting & Cable.

"The way she is scrutinized, I think sometimes unfairly, quite frankly, I think a lot of that has to do with gender. As a woman, Couric has to be concerned about a lot of things the male anchor doesn’t have to worry about, like how she looks or what she is wearing."

Granted, Im probably not the best person to comment on such matters--the last time I watched a network news broadcast I was backstage operating a special effects projector in Studio 3K at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and John Chancellor was at the anchor desk.

Also, anything I say has to be viewed through the prism of my mid-Victorian anti feminist leanings. But what the heck, here goes: SHE'S FRIGGIN' AWFUL!

24 hours a day we get our news from cable Info Babes who know what they're talking about AND are easy on the eyes. Ms. Couric, heaven forgive me, looks like that sinister smiling logo over the entrance at Steeplechase Park.

I'll admit that I'm as shallow as the next guy, probably more so, however my distaste for Her Cuteness goes beyond her gruesome exterior. First, there was her pre-production listening tour. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't another lead-bottomed New York dishrag conduct a listening tour before her big premiere? Then there was the on-air struggle to come up with an appropriate tagline. Dan had Courage, could Katie or any of her loyal viewers (all three of them) come up with something compelling yet dignified? And what is with the legs? Can you imagine Chet and David sitting behind open-front anchor desks in their Bermuda shorts?

So what is it that has caused CBS Evening News to tumble from a close third to an abysmal third in a field of three. It's all of the above, and more, including the snarky undertone in Mr. McManus' comments: "We've failed," he admits, "and it's your fault."

In my business we compete for projects every day. Basically, to get a project we have to create the project... stage designs, scripts, media excerpts... and present them to our prospective clients. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. When we lose you can bet that it's because one of our competitors did a better job, but I'm continually amazed that many of my colleagues refuse to admit that sometimes we just get beat. We fail.

No. The typical post-mortem conversation nearly always includes a rundown of all the ways that the cards were stacked against us:

"The VP of Marketing has his favorite vendor."
"We had the best ideas, but purchasing thinks we're too small."
"We had the best ideas, but purchasing thinks we're too big."
"The CEO plays golf with the sales director from MoonBat Productions."
"The MoonBat sales director is married to the CEO."

Never has anyone said: We missed the mark. We got beat fair and square.

Does anyone at CBS admit that they're getting their asses handed to them, fair and square, because of their own shortcomings?

I doubt it.

No, Mr. McManus. Viewers aren't turning away from CBS Evening News because the anchor is a woman. They're turning away because the anchor is THAT woman and because the news judgement, presentation style and journalistic integrity of the Managing Editor lacks judgement, style and integrity.

In 1945, Edward R. Murrow filed a report from the grounds of the Buchenwald death camp in occupied Germany:

"As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children — enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts....

I arrived at the conclusion that all that was mortal of more than 500 men and boys lay there in two neat piles. There was a German trailer, which must have contained another 50, but it wasn't possible to count them. The clothing was piled in a heap against the wall. It appeared that most of the men and boys had died of starvation; they had not been executed.

But the manner of death seemed unimportant. Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died there during the last 12 years. Thursday, I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?

I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it, I have no words.

If I have offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I'm not in the least sorry..."

In a world where atrocities similar to this happen on a recurring basis, CBS Evening News chooses to follow the same old path. It isn't news, it's an electronic encounter group.

Ms. Couric could present international news from parts of the world that remain invisible. She could report economic news with context and political news with insight rather than personal bias. But instead of asking herself "What is the most important 24 minutes of information I can present tonight," she asks her viewers to suggest a clever slogan for her sign off.

Good grief.


R. Reynolds said...

This anti-feminist diatribe from the man who once choked on a Cheerio. How does one choke on a Cheerio? It has its own breathing hole!

Referring to his snubbing of Director Stephen Spielberg (after being asked to do the voice-over for the "Jaws" ride at Disney), Afred Hitchcock once told Bruce Dern, "I would have felt like such a whore working with that fish boy."

Joseph Martini said...

Imagine my surprise. I returned home from a grueling half-day's work to find that the comments box was invaded by aliens from the planet Gibberish.

yourfriendrick said...

Joseph: Why do you work so hard to be disliked? I'd dislike you if you worked half as hard. Seriously though, your brain is so creative--so funny--why not abandon the dark side and work for the forces of goodness.

Joe Martini for Hillary in 08. It has the ring of truth.

Anonymous said...

Two common mistakes in writing are long-windedness and hyperbole. You've mastered both.

Anonymous said...

You're an interesting writer. Your talent must be elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

To the last anonymous.

I take umbrage to that. Joe is a great writer. It's his thinking that is broken.

aliciak said...

oh, i see. i've read a few of your blogs. wow. you really are a nut case.

Joseph Martini said...

Dear aliciak,

Be careful. Someone might drop a house on you.

Anonymous said...

This is the first step. In a few months CBS will kick her upstairs and blame the viewers for the outrage.