the evening news

I do remember watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news as a child. I think I also watched Dan Rather for a while, and Tom Brokaw -- but of course, right about at the age when I would have started to pay more attention to current events, I moved to Switzerland, so I was removed from the high-stakes world of the American news media. That was in 1982.

Even after I moved back to the US in 1987, I don't remember often sitting down to watch the evening news. Certainly, I didn't do so once I started graduate school and got married, in 1993. Well before my daughter was born, my husband and I were accustomed to getting our news primarily via NPR during our commutes, and to eating dinner between 6:30 and 7, with the tv off so we could reconnect at the end of our workdays.

Once we became parents, in 2001, we didn't want our daughter exposed to the ugliest of the bad news in the world via video, so we made a special effort not to watch news shows while she was awake. Occasionally, I had time to catch the Today show at the top of the news hour at 7 am, when Katie Couric or Matt Lauer would send their viewers over to Ann Curry's desk for 5 minutes of headlines (or maybe it's only 2 minutes?) Sometimes I watched Katie and Matt for a few more minutes, but typically, I had to keep moving in order to get through my morning routines and out the door by 8:30 or 9.

When I heard that Couric was jumping from NBC to CBS, and from morning to evening news, I was intrigued. Would she be given a chance to reshape the evening news anchor role to fit her personal style? I created an account on CBSNews a few days ago, because I wanted to see how the network was preparing for Ms. Couric's official debut as news anchor for the 6:30 national news. Unfortunately, I didn't remember to set up the Tivo to record the debut show, thinking I'd be able to watch it live... but when I asked my daughter to change the channel, and she saw that I wanted to watch a news show, she asked why. I noted that the reporter in charge of the show was a woman, and she said, "So what? I want to watch Animal Planet."

(Hurray for the world she will grow up in, where it is not unusual to see women in positions of influence on television. May that be even more the truth by the time she begins making choices about what to pursue for her first career.)

So, I ran upstairs and turned on the second tv, and Tivo'ed the show.

After my daughter fell asleep, I went in and watched. I was especially impressed with the repeated promotions of the CBSNews website, and with the depth of background information I found on that website which was relevant to stories that were covered in the evening news (on the Taliban, for instance).

Cronkite had gravitas, and so does Katie Couric. However, she retains her authenticity, not wearing a navy blue blazer nor pretending that she's not a woman. In Ms. Couric's closing, she invited viewers to share suggestions for how she should sign off from future broadcasts, via her blog, Couric & Co. Her close the first night was something like "Thank you so much for watching." She's clearly aiming to develop a close relationship with her viewers via the weblog -- so much so that viewers are encouraged to become "fans". This is not new, of course -- she developed a large fanbase as a co-anchor on the Today show. It is fascinating how the producers at CBS are marketing Katie Couric to a new group of viewers, and how those people are responding, via the website. There is a great deal of diversity in the points of view expressed in the blog comments, for instance. See the entry on gravitas...

I may not watch the show live that often, but I will be visiting the CBS news website more.

And what about you, the readers of my blog -- did you watch the evening news last night? Did you think Ms. Couric showed gravitas? If you didn't watch, where do you get your news?


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Did you notice their link back? They seem to be getting their hands dirty in this "blog-o-sphere" stuff.

Posted by Jeremy Smith on September 28, 2006 03:26 PM

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