Katie Couric's wrong woman for this job

April 11, 2006|By SUSAN REIMER | SUSAN REIMER,SUN COLUMNIST

They are going to make me turn in my membership card in the feminist movement for this, but I wish Katie Couric hadn't taken the CBS Evening News job for the same reason I hope Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn't run for president.

I don't think it is going to go well, and that means another notch in the "loss" column for women.

This goes against all the "Try, even if you fail," chatter that I send my daughter's way. But I just can't bear any "I told you so" guff from the guys if and when Katie crashes and burns like Barbara Walters, Sally Quinn and Connie Chung did when they made the same kind of professional leap. I'd rather still be able to argue that she would have been great in that job.

Why am I so sure it is going to go poorly for Katie? Because she is too chirpy to follow Dan Rather into a dinner party, let alone into the chair at the center of all gravitas.

Because when she swapped places with Jay Leno in a "sweeps month" prank, workers arrived and cut away the front of his desk to expose her legs. Because, on that same night, she pointed to her breasts and said, "These are real," and no one is going to ever let her forget that.

Because it is not the same as giving CNN's Christiane Amanpour the anchor job, because Amanpour is the kind of woman reporter who would cover a story by crawling under barbed wire with a knife in her teeth.

Lee Thornton, a former CBS White House correspondent now at the University of Maryland, made the point to The Sun's David Zurawik last week that this isn't about a woman becoming the solo anchor of a network newscast. This is about Couric being that woman.

And she is right.

It isn't about whether a woman can be president. It is about whether a woman with all the divisive baggage that Clinton carries should be the first one to try.

Ladies, we want to put up a winner, don't we?

Add to that the track record of the women who have shared the anchor job with men. The business chewed them up and sent them home crazy. Quinn wrote a whole book about her nervous breakdown at CBS, and she was only on the morning show. Harry Reasoner almost destroyed the indestructible Walters when they shared anchor duties at ABC, and when Rather got done with Chung, she became a stay-at-home mom.

Granted, Couric did a masterful job on the morning of 9/11 while Matt Lauer was losing his cool. But the film clip of her being pecked by a flock of pigeons while covering the Torino Olympics (NBC techs sprinkled bird seed in her hair to attract them) is an Internet favorite right up there with Howard Dean's scream, and we know what that did for his career.

And when she announced her departure Wednesday, Lauer and Ann Curry promised a month-long going-away party, with lots of film clips of TV moments Katie would no doubt rather forget. I predict there will be a hairdo montage and a fashion montage and a gaffe montage and one capturing her every time a snorting laugh escaped through her nose.

Ugh. If I am Katie Couric, I tell the Today show staff to keep it to a cake on my last day so that I don't have to drag all that corny nonsense with me to CBS like toilet paper on my shoe.

Add to that the fact that bright and cheerful Couric will be following sedate and grandfatherly Bob Schieffer, who has been a surprising success on the CBS Evening News, and viewers are going to feel like they are watching deleted scenes from La Cage aux Folles.

Don't get me wrong. I want to see men and women come and go in the anchor chair the way they did in the unisex washroom in Ally McBeal.

I just want the first one through the door to be a winner.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear audio clips of selected Susan Reimer columns, go to baltimoresun.com/reimer.

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