Wednesday, June 13, 2007

‘Tarting Up’ Hasn’t a Thing to Do With Couric

Lesson #1 is, when you have no real defense, then change the basis of the argument. That’s what Leslie Moonves, the president (and tarter-in-chief) of CBS, did in response to a Dan Rather rant, but what can you expect of a guy named Leslie?

Lesliemoonves Lesson #1 is, when you have no real defense, then change the basis of the argument. That’s what Leslie Moonves, the president (and tarter-in-chief) of CBS, did in response to a Dan Rather rant, but what can you expect of a guy named Leslie?
Tom Shales at the Washington Post aired the dirty laundry, commenting
Rather sparked the controversy during a radio appearance Monday morning when he said CBS executives have attempted over the past year to lure viewers to the "CBS Evening News" -- which has plummeted in the ratings -- by "dumbing it down and tarting it up." He said they have tried to graft the " 'Today' show ethos" onto the program, which just happens now to be anchored by former "Today" star Katie Couric.

Reaction was swift if not bright. Leslie Moonves, CBS corporate chief, shot back yesterday with an alleged defense of Couric that, in standard executive fashion, was really a defense of Moonves, the man who created the broadcast for Couric in the first place. He seized on the word "tarting" and called Rather's remark "sexist" -- an attempt by Moonves to blur the issue.
Danrather All of which would be easy to shrug off as just an old hand in the CBS anchor position gritting his teeth over being replaced by a relentlessly chirpy female. Except that Rather is dead right and CBS isn’t the only offender.
As to Moonves getting all bent out of shape over ‘tarting,’ he ought to look up the word and learn that it doesn’t necessarily lean in the direction of women. The first definition is “decorate in a cheap and flashy way.” Touche'.
Certainly CBS has done just that in a desperate lunge to get up off the floor of the ratings. As any drunk can tell you, lunging is not a good way to get up off a floor.
Rather -- who anchored CBS's evening newscast for nearly a quarter-century -- thinks the failure of the "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric" isn't really Couric's fault but Moonves's. The CBS chief decided that to get younger viewers to watch the news, it has to be more fun, more upbeat, more entertaining. In other words: The news had to stop being the news.

The news had to start being the "Today" show. Or something very much like it. And so when Couric signed on nine months ago, the program was filled with squishy gimmicks, such as an alleged vox populi kind of segment in which people opined on issues of the day.
Rickkaplan Moonves and his 90-day-wonder, Rick Kaplan, who’s charged with lunge lessons or being out of a job, are perhaps no more disinterested parties than Rather.
But early on, the fight is between a Dan, a Leslie and a Rickey and I gotta put my money on Dan.
When did the operation of a blow-dryer or a major-league smile become some kind of requisite for putting on the nightly news? What happened between edgy Murrow, comfortable Cronkite and perky Couric? TV News went to hell is what happened.
Katiecouric Ratings rather than believability became the Holy Grail of newscasting and it’s such a blurry, dreary, long-term slide downhill from the days of Ed Murrow that I’m not sure anyone knows where to head in to the dock.
A thousand deadheads across the country are wired to Nielsen and you and I are stuck with what happens to be on their set while they pick their teeth and chug Blue Ribbon. Everyone has gone off chasing after the 18-30 year old set and they don’t give a rat’s ass about news. Kaplan hasn't a clue, mostly because he never stopped long enough to think about what news is--information about recent and important events.
Kaplan said many female colleagues who had worked with Rather were "livid, just livid," about the "tarting it up" remark. Meanwhile, a longtime Rather supporter who asked not to be identified because he still works in broadcast news said: "Rick Kaplan should worry less about Dan Rather and more about the fact that the ratings have actually declined since he took over the broadcast."
Ouch.
Rick Kaplan has been everywhere. President of CNN, Senior Vice-President of ABC News, President of MSNBC and now executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Somehow, that doesn’t sound like a step up.
Kaplan, the guy who’s tarring and feathering Dan Rather (who lost his job for not being able to prove what is well known about George Bush’s military past) was in the driver’s seat at ABC's Prime Time Live in 1991, when they aired an expose against the Food Lion supermarket chain using undercover producers who falsified their resumes and staged events.
In 1998 CNN President Kaplan oversaw production of the first documentary for the new show NewsStand. The documentary called "Tailwind," narrated by journalist Peter Arnett, alleged that during the Vietnam War the United States had used poison gas against women and children in Laos. This report was later discredited. (Wikipedia)
Shales, in the Washington Post, continues,
The ensuing controversy not only spurred criticism of Rather, but also virtually split the CBS News division in two, with some employees thinking Rather should have done more to save the careers of producers who were fired under orders from the top. Moonves and Rather had never liked each other, and Moonves took the opportunity to essentially force out Rather. Moonves never could have turned the "CBS Evening News" into the "CBS Candy News" with Rather in the anchor chair -- and while Rather held the title of managing editor.

Even critics of Rather would have to admit he has always stood, firmly and stubbornly, for hard news over fluff and for integrity in the newsroom.
Parishilton Quoting Dan Rather,
"We have enormous life-or-death issues and challenges facing us in this country and the world today. Everything from the dismantling of civil rights enforcement within the Justice Department to the war in Iraq to news of secret prisons in Europe and, of course, the next presidential election.

"And yet, for some reason, Paris Hilton is the big story on newscast after newscast. She is inescapable. Putting Paris Hilton on the front page is ridiculous, and it is a mistake to load up a newscast with soft features. The corporate leadership of CBS doesn't even know what hard news is supposed to be -- not now, and not in the last years that I was the anchor of the broadcast. They know about entertainment, not news, and about kissing up to politicians in Washington who can do them some good from a regulatory standpoint and help improve their profit picture."
To which Walter Cronkite would say, “That’s the way it is” and Ed Murrow, “Good night and good luck.”
Thank you Dan Rather.
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