Snap! Couric Scolds Alessandra Stanley Over Error-Filled Cronkite Article


A week after the fact, Katie Couric took New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley to task at the end of last night’s broadcast over an error-filled article Stanley had penned in the NYT following Walter Cronkite‘s death. Katie kept the tone civil — saccharine, almost — but it’s clear she’s not impressed! And while she doesn’t bother to call Stanley out by name, it’s hard not to conclude this may be belated retribution for a unflattering and much-read piece Stanley wrote about Couric back in 2005. Revenge is a dish best served cold!

“I had to smile, albeit a tad ruefully, and I think he would too, when I saw the New York Times correcting a piece that had appeared following his death. The article contained not one, not two but seven errors about [Cronkite’s] life and career….The paper issued a correction that seemed as long as the article itself.”

They did indeed! Here’s the correction in its entirety (far longer than anything, say, Maureen Dowd has ever been on the receiving end of):

Correction: July 22, 2009 An appraisal on Saturday about Walter Cronkite’s career included a number of errors. In some copies, it misstated the date that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and referred incorrectly to Mr. Cronkite’s coverage of D-Day. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968, not April 30. Mr. Cronkite covered the D-Day landing from a warplane; he did not storm the beaches. In addition, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, not July 26. “The CBS Evening News” overtook “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” on NBC in the ratings during the 1967-68 television season, not after Chet Huntley retired in 1970. A communications satellite used to relay correspondents’ reports from around the world was Telstar, not Telestar. Howard K. Smith was not one of the CBS correspondents Mr. Cronkite would turn to for reports from the field after he became anchor of “The CBS Evening News” in 1962; he left CBS before Mr. Cronkite was the anchor. Because of an editing error, the appraisal also misstated the name of the news agency for which Mr. Cronkite was Moscow bureau chief after World War II. At that time it was United Press, not United Press International.

More from Couric:

Walter Cronkite used to say ‘Get it first, but get it right.’ So as we say goodbye to the Dean of TV news, let’s all remember as journalists when we say “That’s the way it is” – it really is.”

Stanley, of course, is almost as well-known for her errors as she is for her writing. TVNewser, is speculating that Couric’s smackdown may have been retribution for a not-so-nice profile Stanely penned about Couric back in 2005, which contained passages like this:

“But lately her image has grown downright scary: America’s girl next door has morphed into the mercurial diva down the hall. At the first sound of her peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the lights.”

And this:

But “Today” has turned her popularity into a Marxist-style cult of personality. The camera fixates on Ms. Couric’s legs during interviews, she performs in innumerable skits and stunts, and her clowning is given center stage even during news events. “Today” hit a low point in July, when Saddam Hussein appeared in a Baghdad courtroom to hear the charges he will face when he goes to trial as a war criminal. All the networks interrupted their programming to show live images of Mr. Hussein – all except NBC. “Today” stayed on Ms. Couric swatting shuttlecocks with the United States Olympic badminton team.

The article – sourced completely anonymously – kicked off a wave of Couric scrutiny and “morning show wars” coverage back in spring/summer 2005. Not long after, rumblings began about Couric moving on. You know the rest.

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