I haven't seen Katie Couric read the news on CBS yet. But I did see her fawning, imbecilic, cringe-inducing, hero-worshipping fluff piece on Condi Rice on 60 Minutes last Sunday. I didn't like it.
Others have commented on the interview. They've nailed it. I don't have much to add on that front. So let me speculate as to what the Katie Hearts Condi 60 Minutes fiasco tells us about Katie Couric as Serious Journalist.
I'm sure that Katie Couric is fairly smart. I'd seen her on the Today show a few times, and she seemed pretty quick on her feet. And as trite as this sounds, it's hard to see how someone can be as successful as she's been in the media game without being at least reasonably intelligent.
So how do you explain her performance on 60 Minutes? How do you explain her decision to treat an interview with the Secretary of State of the United States, a key player in the Bush Administration, in the middle of an election campaign, at a time when America is bogged down in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and may well soon initiate a war with Iran, as an opportunity to produce a campaign commercial-style fluff piece for the benefit of her subject?
You can rule out any "management made her do it" theory right off the bat. No, her Condi interview was part of the CBS News Katie Couric Product Launch, and she's got a major say in how that campaign in run. Now, I have no insight into or interest in how Katie Couric made the decision as a psychological matter. But here's what the fact of the decision tells us:
As a journalist, as a serious newsperson, Katie Couric is incompetent. Utterly, completely and irredeemably incompetent.
How did this come to pass? I don't know, but allow me to speculate. The likely explanation is that she lacks relevant domain-specific experience and knowledge. How do you think she would do if you plucked her up from the CBS newsroom and gave her a shot at being a real estate partner in a law firm? Would you hire her as a heart surgeon?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that reading the news requires as much training or knowledge as something like heart surgery. And to the extent Couric's anchor job just requires her to read from a teleprompter, I'm sure she'll manage just fine. But as the 60 Minutes fiasco demonstrates, she has terrible journalistic judgment. To the extent that her job requires her to make distinctions, to exercise discretion in order to make tough calls about what's important and what isn't, forget it.
Now, maybe you think I'm being a bit harsh. After all, I didn't just say that she is "incompetent", but that she is "irredeemably incompetent." Well, I think I can resolve any doubts you may have. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you (h/t to Charles Pierce) Katie Couric's blog, Couric & Co. Read this and then tell me if you disagree.