Karin Agness

If a newly hired employee led his organization to a 20-year low in profits, Donald Trump’s famous phrase, “You’re Fired,” would most certainly be invoked. Well, for most people. Apparently, this general rule doesn’t apply to women because the public is actually to blame.

In June, Katie Couric brought the ratings for the CBS Evening News to a 20-year low. Rather than taking responsibility for the low ratings, CBS has decided to rely on an old favorite feminist argument—blame female failures on sexism.

There are many possible reasons to explain Couric’s failure, but CBS has chosen to reject many complicated arguments for simple sexism.

First, there is an argument to be made that people are turning more and more to the internet for their news. (This does not turn Couric’s failure into a success because she is still in last place standing behind ABC and NBC.) But this can be partially relied upon to explain the low numbers.

Second, viewers have permanently left CBS because of Rathergate and the station’s leftwing bias.

Third, Couric herself is not cut out for an evening news program. Couric was successful on a morning television program, but the evening news and morning news are like day and night. Success in one arena does not automatically translate into success in another arena. Would Matt Lauer, Al Roker or Regis Philbin be taken seriously as an evening newscaster? No. They are better fit for the morning shows.

Fourth, Couric is a victim of blatant sexism. Which argument did CBS choose? CBS picked the last argument. Leslie Moonves, CBS chief executive, said Tuesday, “I’m sort of surprised by the vitriol against her. The number of people who don’t want news from a woman was startling.” Not surprising, CBS does not blame Couric’s failure on different viewer habits or Couric herself, but instead attributes her failure to institutional societal sexism.

But this is only one side of the coin. The other side is that Couric has benefited more than anyone because of her gender. CBS specifically made Couric’s gender an issue and sought Couric in part because she is a woman, which it thought would draw in more female viewers and in turn, help the program. While CBS will be unlikely to admit that Couric would not have the job if she was not a woman in the first place, this is a fair assumption. CBS implicitly acknowledges this. The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that CBS was hoping to draw younger, female viewers and that Couric has received a 2 percent increase in women age 18 to 49.

Karin Agness

Karin Agness is President of the Network of Enlightened Women.
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