Katie Couric's Case of the Blues

Larry Elder
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Posted: Jan 25, 2007 12:01 AM
Katie Couric's Case of the Blues

CBS news anchor Katie Couric, invited to a briefing at the White House, complained about being the only journalist in attendance "wearing a skirt." Her colleagues included ABC's Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos; NBC's Brian Williams and Tim Russert; CBS's Bob Schieffer; CNN's Wolf Blitzer; and FOX's Brit Hume.

Presumably, Couric's complaint concerned her status as the lone female in that room, rather than the restrictive dress code. Few viewers, I suspect, wish to see Tim Russert in a tutu or Brit Hume sporting a bra.

So let's deal with Couric's complaint. Couric, on her CBS "Couric & Co." blog, thought it astonishing that, in the post-1970s women's liberation era, she found herself the only female news anchor in the room. In her blog entry, called, "Katie: A Woman at the Table," she wrote that women "only" comprise 16 percent of Congress but account for 51 percent of the population. In Rwanda, notes Couric, 49 percent of the parliament is female. (Nothing said about the genocide in Rwanda that produced approximately 800,000 deaths.) And, says Couric, in Sweden, 47 percent of the parliament are women. (Nothing written about Sweden's tax rate of 60 percent.) Couric also wrote that of the Fortune 500 companies, only in nine instances do employees refer to their CEO as "Ms." or "Mrs." Bring on affirmative action!

But other "imbalances" in the White House briefing room failed to bother Couric. All the journalists, for example, came from television. Several clearly held liberal points of view. NBC's Tim Russert, for example, once worked for the liberal former senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And ABC's George Stephanopoulos? He worked as a campaign aide to help elect Democratic former President Bill Clinton. Bob Schieffer's closing commentary at the end of CBS News' "Face the Nation" makes him sound at least as leftist as "60 Minutes'" Andy Rooney.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer, during Hurricane Katrina, subtly accused the White House of racism when he labeled those suffering as "so poor . . . so black." The conservative watchdog Media Research Center says Charlie Gibson's journalistic approach exposes him as "favoring gun control and campaign finance reform, portraying tax cuts as costly, and once even boasting about a sign in his house proclaiming, 'War is not good for children and other living things.'" Only FOX's Brit Hume seems to consistently represent the "conservative side," often offering stories that the liberal "mainscream media" avoids. And even he once served for years as ABC's White House correspondent. But none of this bothered Ms. Couric.

Nor did Couric seem concerned that only whites attended the meeting. Even though over 30 percent of the country consists of minorities, the all-white nature of the "major journalists" gave Couric no case of heartburn. But the shortage of skirt-wearing colleagues did frustrate her.

For what it's worth, of all the local news anchor chairs in the country, women hold 57 percent of those jobs. While men still dominate the position of news director, women account for 55 percent of executive producer positions.

There was, however, a huge issue of "unfairness" in the room. Although Couric sits in last place in the ratings of the Big Three, she earns a reported $15 million a year. Gibson, in second place, clocks in at a reported $7 million. NBC's Williams, who sits atop the ratings, reportedly makes $4 million per year.

Do the math. For the week of Jan. 15, Williams attracted 10.25 million viewers, which comes out to a salary of $.39 per set of eyeballs. Gibson, in second place with 9.5 million viewers that week, earns $.74 per viewer. And Ms. Couric, who had a whopping 2.45 million fewer viewers than the first-place Williams? At her $15 million per year salary, with her 7.8 million viewers, CBS pays her $1.92 per viewer! This means the third-place Couric gets five times the amount of money per viewer than does the first-place Williams. (Memo to Brian: Fire your agent.)

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., criticized the severance package of Home Depot's ex-CEO as an example of "income inequality." The National Organization for Women claims that women earn $.75 on the dollar for the exact same work as men. But in the case of the networks, each of the Big Three runs a half-hour nightly newscast, which, minus commercials, comes out to approximately 22 minutes. Assuming the anchors spend about the same amount of off-air time in preparing the newscast, their time spent at work comes out the same. So, for putting in the same time, for the same work, Gibson and Williams get shafted.

We can remedy this "inequality" in one of three ways. First, make the male colleagues wear skirts to provide company for Couric. Second, give the men raises. Or third, given her "exorbitant" salary, fire Couric.

Now we understand the lack of top female journalists -- they are just too darned expensive.