The BBC World News' Katty Kay did a story today about the debut of Katie Couric, the "first solo female" anchor of a network newscast. It must have been galling for Kay, herself apparently a female, to deliver this news. The (male) BBC reporter covering this non-event said that CBS hoped Couric would "stop the rot" at CBS and bring in new, younger viewers while keeping the advertisers happy. Although I don't normally watch CBS news, I tuned in tonight to see the new improved version.
The lead story was about the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Reporter Laura Logan went behind enemy lines complete with cool night-vision cameras - her escorts insisted that she be covered head to toe Taliban-style with only her eyes showing. At one point she asked her guide "Am I allowed to smile?". Back at the US army base, she appeared looking like something from a GAP commercial in an ultra-tight T-shirt and equally tight cargo pants. Aside from anything she reported, Logan's behaviour alone was a lesson in why NATO needs to be there.
Other stories included an interview with Tom Friedman of the New York Times discussing the war on terror, a piece on health problems of first-responders at the World Trade Center attack, the death of Steve Irwin, a rant by Morgan Spurlock (director of Supersize Me) about civil discourse in America, exlusive pictures of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' new baby, and a story about a Wisconsin artist who paints portraits of orphans in third-world countries. You know, basically all the hard-hitting reportage and insightful analysis that was previously lacking at CBS.
As for keeping the advertisers happy - I kept track of the commercials in the half-hour broadcast to try to figure out who their target audience was. From what I can gather, the typical viewer of the CBS Evening News is a middle-aged man with high cholesterol, high blood-pressure, an enlarged prostate, has difficulty sleeping at night and uses an automatic shower cleaner while buttering his bagels with low trans-fat non-dairy spread and wearing gel insoles. Is this the newer, younger, hipper audience that CBS is trying to reach out to?
The conclusion? CBS is still producing the same lame news broadcast aimed at middle-aged middle-class viewers. Younger, hipper consumers will continue to seek alternative sources of news like blogs while the big networks compete for an ever-shrinking slice of the market. Plus, CBS now has Katie Couric's intensely annoying perkiness. If you own shares in CBS - sell now.