Wednesday, December 08, 2004



So among the stories crossing my screen is one from the December 13, 2004 New York Observer, in which ABC News reporter Elizabeth Vargas whines that it's about time for a female anchor on one of the network news programs.

Aside from Barbara Walters, there hasn't been one (Walters had the seat briefly for ABC in the 1970s, before Peter Jennings returned). Maybe people are still fearful, remembering Jessica Savitch.

I say: Where's a female reporter who can report and can command respect?

It ain't Katie Couric. Katie Couric apparently couldn't properly run a high school newspaper with the guiding hand of an overzealous faculty advisor. Most recently I was appalled when she read a tease someone else had written in this way: "...the die is cast... misspelled d-i-e..." Am I wrong when I want a woman helping to present the news to understand that the phrase comes from Julius Caesar's quote when he crosses the Rubicon? Does Couric think the Rubicon is one of those mystic books in the Kabbalah, or perhaps a trendy nightclub in TriBeCa? What the hell kind of school do they have at the University of Virginia, anyway? Amazingly, that's not Couric's only problem. When she conducts interviews (now staged so we can see her attractive legs and fashionable high heels), she interrupts her subject, answers questions for her subject, and ignores her subject's answers. Whereas a good interviewer should ask, "How did that make you feel?," Couric will ask, "You must have felt horrible" (or happy, or dismayed, or whatever). Oh, I almost forgot, she totally denegrated her profession by apearing in Shark Tales. Yes, I'm sorry for her husband's death, but I can't take her seriously as an anchor when she conveys no spark of intelligence.

Or there's always gravitas. The reason the truly great network anchors were great -- Chet Huntley, Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings -- is because when you saw them sitting at a desk, you knew they were serious about getting you the story. That's why Cronkite had the power to make Lyndon Johnson realize Vietnam was a losing cause. A president today -- even Dumbya -- can't be concerned with anything Dan Rather or pretty boy Brian Williams may convey, because, well, face it, Rather became a flake and CBS should have fired him about 17 years ago, and Williams gives the sense that he should be reporting for Access Hollywood. What female reporter currently has this sort of power? There was a time I would have argued for Barbara Walters, but that 15 seconds came and went. She went from interviewing Yasser Arafat to interviewing Justin Timberlake. Right there her resumé gets pulled from the pile.

So who's there? Diane Sawyer at ABC? No. Her morning show is nothing more than a Disney-ized version of the news, concentrating on Hollywood gossip and more interested in Bilbo Baggins than Baghdad. Lesley Stahl? Maybe. She's certainly severe enough.

And how about the next generation of news hotties? Vargas? Well, there's no doubt she's a babe. Heck, the second seat on the Today show has given us a long stretch of news babes, starting with Vargas, and including the current occupant, Ann Curry; Soledad O'Brien; and Kelly and/or Norah O'Donnell. O'Brien has gone off to CNN, where Paula Zahn also resides. Zahn is a possibility, I suppose.

I think if I were building a list, of every woman in the news business I know, maybe I'd put CNBC's Sue Herera at the top. She's not an unattractive woman, but, and I think this is important, she's not so beautiful that you forget to concentrate on her reporting. (Maria Bartiromo, anyone?) (Although I did like Joey Ramone's little tribute ditty.) Her major flaw right now is that she's concentrated only on business reporting, but that means she probably has a leg up on Katie Couric and the other home-ec reporters I've named. Sign her up, put her to work reporting from Iraq, the Capitol, and the White House for a year or two each, and then I'd bet she'd be ready.

You know who else I'd like to see? Jane Pauley.

Related (sadly): A site where you can vote for your choice of hottest reporter.


Jim Chadwick said...

Not that I really give a damn about who anchors a network news show, male or female, but I will put your challenge to rest with two words: Christiane Amanpour probably the smartest person on TV news today. Whenever I am channel surfing and see her on CNN, I immediately stop and will listen, regardless of what she is reporting on.

Mike said...

Jim, you've definitely got a point. I overlooked Amanpour, in part because I erroneously believed that she wasn't a US citizen. (Sure, Jennings wasn't, either, but he's Canadian, and it's the same thing... in fact, I have to remember to blog about how the US keeps importing its biggest actors from outside the US because it can't find white Americans to put in the movies anymore.) She's definitely the ace among all aces in the world of female reporters.

I actually first became aware of her on a show televised in the 1980s that was something like Edward R. Murrow's old You Are There show. It looked at historical events as they might have been reported on, and used actual reporters.

But if Amanpour's from Rhode Island, what's the deal with that accent?