Time Magazine has a very interesting article about CBS News anchor Katie Couric and the talk about replacing her with, as usual, a white male.
By James Poniewozik
Is it the year 2060 in America, or 1960? Jon Stewart at the Oscars and voters in the street have noted there’s something sci-fi about an election in which two leading candidates are a woman and a black man. “By the time this came,” a Pennsylvanian told the New York Times Magazine, regarding Barack Obama’s run, “I thought I’d be flying around in a spaceship or driving in some kind of Jetsons vehicle.”
If one side of the debate stage is Star Trek, however, the question-asking side looks like Dragnet. In the Democratic debates, Obama and Hillary Clinton have taken questions from Charles Gibson, Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer–white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy.
Now the white-male preserve of TV anchoring may get yet white-maler. Katie Couric, whose CBS Evening News remains in deep third place, reportedly may leave after the presidential Inauguration or sooner. Should Hillary pull the election out, the first female President could be sworn in just in time to say goodbye to the first solo female anchor.
This election has brought up many questions of identity politics, but one of the most glaring is the identity that TV news divisions put up front. (Not that white men are exactly rare in print either, as the head shot at the top of this column illustrates.) It should be embarrassing that presidential politics–which gave us all those dead white guys in your wallet–is moving forward as TV news is moving back. Our leaders are more diverse than our anchors.
Can I get an amen on this? On network news and most of cable news all you get are white males. Apparently they’re the only folks who are qualified to be news anchors and have their own cable news shows.
The dissonance between the candidates’ podium and the anchor desks has prompted some change. Like a company scouring the staff for a black employee to attend a meeting with a minority client, cable news–where all but a handful of prime-time hosts and anchors are white men–has loaded up on female and minority pundits and analysts instead. It’s a universal phenomenon: businesses say they have no qualified female or minority candidates until there’s a pressing financial or p.r. reason to find them. Then, suddenly, they’re everywhere. So there’s no excuse not to develop them for the plum anchor spots as well.
I noticed a huge increase in diversity when it came to political pundits and analysts this political season. But after the election is over then what? Will cable news go back to the mostly all white male club?
There are journalistic reasons to make this call too. Race and gender are real campaign issues–and white men have every right to cover them–but the networks have been practically handicapped by their makeup. If they were not largely fronted by white men, they would have been less vulnerable to the uncomfortable images of the media’s boys ganging up on Hillary in the earlier debates or of largely white TV personalities piling on Obama about Jeremiah Wright in the much trashed ABC debate and before. Finally, there are solid business reasons. If TV news has any hope of finding another generation of viewers, hiring staff who reflect younger viewers’ reality is relevant.
Politicians like to say that elections are about the past vs. the future. That’s what this one is looking like, with the white guys of TV sitting opposite a black man or a woman through November and maybe beyond–1960 interrogating 2060. Any chance they could at least meet in 2008?