In a lengthy New York Times article about the changing business of network news, one sentence has drawn the most attention, about CBS’ Katie Couric and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
And in a follow-up Media Decoder blog post, Brian Stelter expands on the topic – that Cooper had met with CBS News about a possible anchor job. Let the speculation begin.
Here’s the attention-grabbing line in the Stelter/Bill Carter story: “CBS executives, mindful that Katie Couric’s contract expires in a little over a year, have talked to Anderson Cooper of CNN about an anchor job, according to two television veterans who were informed of the meeting.”
This wording implies there’s a possibility the two events – Couric’s contract, Cooper’s meeting – are related, and that’s what brought several stories already that ask whether Cooper will replace Couric as anchor of the CBS Evening News. The blog post did little to shoot this down: “It is unclear whether Mr. Cooper was (or is) being considered by CBS executives as a replacement for Ms. Couric, the anchor of the CBS Evening News.”
I’m skeptical – don’t expect Cooper to anchor the Evening News any time soon…or ever. A source familiar with the situation confirmed the meeting happened several months ago, while a CNN spokesperson tells Mediaite: “Reports that Cooper has recently met with CBS News re: an anchor job are absolutely false.”
> Update: More from a CNN spokesperson: “He is not engaged in any additional conversations with them beyond those necessary for his continuing role on 60 Minutes.”
Still the wording of both the NYT sentence and this denial of sorts is important. The piece didn’t say the meeting was “recent,” just that it occurred at all, and the print article was clear in stating it was “about an anchor job” and not necessarily, or not specifically, Couric’s Evening News gig.
And there’s the recent push by CBS News President Sean McManus to quiet rumors of dissension relating to Couric, with a very strongly-worded quote: “There hasn’t been one single discussion about altering Katie’s role or adjusting her contract.”
Couric has dealt with rumors of her imminent demise since she took the high-profile CBS job, and even in some cases before. There was April 2007 and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Again in April 2008 and the Wall Street Journal. The anti-Couric sentiment may have actually started in the New York Times back in April 2005, with a snarky Alessandra Stanley column. Interestingly, the person who may have devoted the most ink (or, cyber-ink) to the Couric speculation and potential storylines is Stelter, back when he was editor of TVNewser.com (disclosure – that’s where I was before Mediaite, and wrote a bit about the Couric Watch too).
The truth is, Couric had a very difficult road when she entered the CBS Evening News picture, and she certainly has made in-roads that don’t show up in the Nielsen ratings every week. For one, her web program “@KatieCouric” has been a very real step in the direction toward dealing with the changing network news world. And as the Times story indicates, that will be a goal in the next few years, and may be why Cooper is even involved in the picture:
The effectiveness of that formula inevitably resurrects predictions that a marriage with a cable news organization is imperative for CBS and ABC. The obvious partner is CNN, and both those networks have been in courtships with it before. To date, the cultural challenges have been insurmountable. CNN, which says last year was its most profitable since its founding in 1980, would seem to have little incentive to rush to the aid of a network.
One source expects a CNN partnership with CBS or ABC “within the next few years.”
Couric’s ratings are lower than her competition, but Cooper’s ratings are exponentially smaller than Couric’s. And Cooper is already a sometime-anchor on CBS News, as an occasional correspondent on 60 Minutes. Is it possible Couric moves to another role within CBS News, or to another network entirely, when her contract is up next year, and Cooper becomes the anchor at the evening newscast? Sure – anything is possible. But it’s not likely. Instead, the greater possibility is Cooper could help CBS in other ways (Early Show? Full-time at 60 Minutes?)…and that CNN as a whole could help too.
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