Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rather strange

Dan Rather has been around the block long enough to know not to cavalierly toss around hot button words. So unless he suffered a momentary brain freeze when he was being interviewed on a cable network the other morning, it's safe to say the former CBS "Evening News" anchorman knew exactly what he was doing when he accused his old network of "tarting" up the program under his successor Katie Couric.

Rather can be excused for not having kind thoughts about CBS boss Les Moonves (he "doesn't know about news," Rather said), given the unceremonious way in which he was asked to vacate his anchor desk. And Rather can't be too unhappy that ratings for the program he unwillingly departed have gotten increasingly worse in Couric's first year. But Rather does himself no favors by going the sexist route in denouncing the broadcast, particularly because his primary point has merit.

Said Rather, CBS' "mistake was to try to bring the 'Today Show' ethos to the 'Evening News,' and to dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience."

Mainstream media, large and small, print and broadcast, certainly have modified their approach in recent years in the face of declining circulation and viewership. Many have veered away from hard news in favor of softer stories they feel can bolster their audiences, especially to lure young people. Indeed, Rather is not the first to accuse the media of dumbing down America.

True or not, it's fair criticism. But are other network news programs on a similar path "tarting up" content, or is it just CBS, which just happens to have a female anchor?

"It doesn't have to do with Katie, it doesn't have to do with gender. It has to do with corporate leadership," Rather told Fox News, according to The Associated Press.

I am one of Rather's admirers. But I'd be more inclined to believe that if he had chosen a word other than "tart," which someone with his skills in the English language easily could have done.
comments powered by Disqus

<< Home