September 4, 2009

Don’t try to compare Couric and Sawyer

Posted in Media, Uncategorized at 10:18 am by R

At the close of 2009, Charles Gibson will relinquish his post at the anchor desk on ABC Nightly News. He took over the position after Peter Jennings passed away in 2007. (May he rest in God’s peace)

Filling the famed chair will be Diane Sawyer, which means two of the three network newscasts will be lead by women — CBS with Katie Couric and now ABC with Sawyer.

It’s tempting to draw comparisons between Couric and Sawyer, but other than being successful professional women anchoring the news in the same time slot, there really aren’t many.

Katie Couric

Katie Couric

Couric really cut her teeth in morning television. And let’s face it, she was PERFECT for it. Always bubbly, but with the appropriate news edge, Couric was friendly and even-handed as a journalist. Who didn’t love to watch Katie Couric on the Today Show!? Even her more serious interviews showcased her unrelenting affable personality. It’s the kind of style and ability not all reporters are blessed with.

Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer

Sawyer’s background began as a White House aide to the Nixon administration. It was hypothesized at one point that she might be the infamous “Deep Throat.” Her reporting jobs have included  prestigious posts with shows like 60 Minutes, 20/20 and Primetime Live. I think it’s safe to say Sawyer’s reporting style is a little bit harder than Couric’s.

Couric had to learn that tougher reporting style on-air. At the outset of her tenure with CBS Evening News she maintained perhaps too much of her cheerful style…and the ratings tanked. Bless her heart, she was only being who she was. But sometimes the call of duty asks us to go a little outside of ourselves to be really successful. To Couric’s credit, it should also be stated that she was overwhelmingly scrutinized because she was the first woman to fill the anchor desk solo. Sawyer won’t face that same pressure. Couric paved the way on that one.

But Sawyer moving to the evening anchor desk feels a bit like a homecoming. Though she’s proved she has great range in her reporting style after having held down the fort at GMA with Robin Roberts, Sawyer is — at heart — a news hound. She’s delivered hard-hitting and often political stories and mammoth interviews, like Sadaam Hussien, for the bulk of her broadcast career.

Her political past gives her an innate ability to tell tough stories, hold difficult — but not confrontational — interviews and deliver news in a way that has just enough grit.

My respect for both broadcasters runs deep. One more glass ceiling shattered.

While I don’t know what the critics will say after her first broadcast, I think it’s fair to say she’ll escape some of the harsh opinions that were lobbed at Couric during her first weeks. I bet there’ll even be some comparisons to Couric in those first reviews.

All of these changes beg some questions:

  • As the times have changed, do we as news consumers prefer to have the stories of the day delivered to us by women?
  • What is the characteristic that keeps us loyal to a certain anchor?
  • Who do you prefer to watch (past or present)? Any why?

Me? I’m a Brian Williams kind of gal. He reminds me of watching Peter Jennings, that’s who I grew up watching.



1 Comment »

  1. Momma said,

    Dianne Sawyer – first saw her in late 1960’s on local TV in Louisville, KY. She had won America’s Junior Miss, got to a Seven Sisters College and was doing weather and ads locally. Remember her ad on a golf course for sunglasses. I remember Her father was the County Judge, highest political post in Jefferson County – killed in car crash. She left for White House job around then. She even went to San Clemente with disgraced Nixon.

    Katie Couric did some serious stuff – her husband’s death; the “Couric Effect” is still saving lives of colon cancer patients. Katie buttonholed Pres Bush #1 for a major news scoop. And that interview with Sarah Palin in NYC in 2008 was spot-on journalism! A velvet boxing glove!

    These two women have the professional credentials – no one can argue that any more. Hooray.

    On CNN the women reporters have a thing for HAIR and make-up. How off-putting.

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