I’m 67 years old, male, and Caucasian, so I guess that makes me an old white guy. It’s been my impression for years that some people think that old guys (and gals, for that matter), are just in the way, taking up space, using more than our fair share of medical facilities, collecting our Social Security, and, in general, using up resources that would be better spent on virile, valuable, contributing-to-the-common-good young people. Years ago, a Colorado governor even suggested that at a certain age (I think it was 80), old people should have the decency to die and get out of the way. (How old is he, by the way, and is he still alive?)
It seems, however, that our time has come. According to the weekly Public Eye Chat , Katie Couric’s ratings troubles at CBS are being blamed on the public’s preference for “older white guys” delivering the news. Speaking with Brian Montopoli of Public Eye Chat, Linda Mason, CBS News Senior Vice President, Standards and Special Projects, blamed Couric’s low ratings on the fact that she is the first female anchor.
Mason hopes for things to improve, not because of Couric, but if CBS continues to break news and tell interesting stories. However, the key to Couric’s place at the bottom of the TV news ratings is, as Mason sees it, because the “public…seems to prefer the news from white guys, and now that Charlie [Gibson)] is doing so well, from older white guys. I guess they want the reassurance of a Walter Cronkite.”
It’s been no secret that Couric, who started strong during her first week as the CBS Evening News anchor, has steadily fallen in the evening news race. A recent report on Comcast.net noted that the CBS Evening News had “recorded its smallest audience since 1987 and probably many years before that.” So far, CBS has received an extremely small return from its huge investment in Couric.
A recent Gallup Poll, released early in May, showed that one-third of Americans have a negative view of Katie Couric, who trails behind her rivals at ABC and NBC. To be fair to Couric, 51% of those surveyed said that they view her in a positive light.
None of this can be encouraging for CBS. Mason, who says she was the first female in every job she held at CBS, is puzzled why TV viewers have not responded well to Couric. Mason’s own track record as a female in the TV business should have paved the way for a successful introduction of a female anchor, but it has not. There have even been unconfirmed rumors that Couric could be on her way out if the ratings do not change. If the ratings do improve for CBS, will it be because the public finally accepts the concept of a female anchor, or because the network finds a way to bring news that will draw viewers regardless of the gender of the anchor? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, there is still a place for us old geezers, and that’s not all bad!