Katie Couric, now 80% less awkward
Katie Couric debuted as the anchor of CBS Evening News almost three weeks ago, and immediately critics decried her work as perky, bubbly, and too sweet for such a formidable position. The Washington Post even gave her suit a bad review, saying that it made her look chubby, which, let’s face it, is not at all a hypocritical way of accusing someone of not delivering the news seriously enough.
There is no question that the words people are using to describe Katie’s performance indicate a general unease about a woman anchoring such a major news show. Did anyone mention Brian WIlliams’ tie on the night he took over for Tom Brokaw? Did anyone even notice? I have never read a review of a male news anchor with half as many emotionally-charged descriptions as the ones used to dissect Katie, although isn’t that Charles Gibson such a cute little grumple-puss?
I didn’t catch her inaugural show, but have seen almost every episode since then. I will admit, she initially did not deliver the news like most of the men who have done this job before her, and the differences were jarring. During the first few shows she tilted her head to the side when delivering a headline as if trying to break the bad news of the day as gently as possible. When interviewing guests she leaned in like a close friend, and acted as if she were on the verge of putting her hand on someone’s leg and saying, “I know this is hard, but I am here for you.”
I was worried because as a fan of the Today show I had witnessed her compulsion to flirt with the most unsuspecting guests. My husband liked to call them Awkward Katie Couric Moments™, those special occasions when she would say something completely suggestive to a married man — Tom Hanks, Al Gore, even Matt Lauer — who would then turn an undeniable shade of red because he knew his wife was at home watching. Was America ready for a news anchor to flirt with the president of Iran when discussing nuclear bombs? Maybe that’s what that dialogue needs.
But even in the last week she’s settled into her new position as if she has been doing this as long as any of her colleagues. She has slowly shed the manic energy that worked for a morning show and developed something much more authoritative. I like her delivery now almost as much as I liked that of Elizabeth Vargas whose resignation from ABC’s World News Tonight was a true loss. She obviously just needed to get her footing, not unlike anyone else who starts a new job, although unique in the sense that those first few steps played out in front of 13 million critics.