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September 23, 2014

As far as Katie Couric knows, she's staying - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jul 18th 2008 5:26PM
CBS News TCA Panel
After the executive session, it was CBS News' turn to face the critics and talk about their election coverage. Via satellite from their New York studios was CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer, senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield, and CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus.

Right away, a reporter brought up Katie Couric's job status. "I'm glad you got right to it," Couric joked. "I thought [the speculation] had died down considerably." She said she "can't control what media writers write. We live in an echo chamber," with media reporters more fascinated by her status than the general public is. "The attention befuddles me," she continued. She's concentrating on doing "the best job I can."

McManus addressed the rumors that Couric may leave the Evening News after either the election or inauguration. "We have no plans to part company anytime soon. There is a lot of speculative pieces that have spun out of control. We're very committed to people and product." The news president said that they are "unbelievably focused on covering the news. we haven't had time to think about anything else but putting on the best broadcast we can."

I tried to get Couric and company to comment on Chris Wallace's remark earlier this week that MSNBC was "in the tank" for Barack Obama. I think I just got too general in my question, just asking if they think "you or your competitors" are favoring the presumptive Democratic candidate in their coverage. Couric took the opening to just address how objective they're being, citing Obama's upcoming trip to Iraq and the Middle East, and how this will be an opening for the media to question him on his foreign policy ideas and if he's changed his mind about how we've deployed our troops there. I tried to follow-up and ask "what about your competitiors?" but someone got their question out before I did.

Speaking of Obama, the panel got a question why the anchors for the three networks are following Obama on his trip when they did not do that for McCain. The panel agreed that this was just a bigger story, with Couric adding that the Obama campagin gave the news organizations a greater degree of access. "What if he changes his mind after he gets on the ground and sees what situation is? We want to be there," said Schieffer. "It doesn't bother me when we get criticized for covering a story too much, just when we don't cover something enough."

Schieffer, in response to a question about people getting news from The Daily Show, joked that "Jon Stewart is my inspiration." He did say, though, that while he loves what Stewart and Stephen Colbert do, he considers them more akin to a newspaper's editorial cartoonist. "They have the right to lie because they can deal with parody."

Near the end of the panel, the subject turned to new chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan's remarks on The Daily Show about how she's tried to get important, longer-form stories on the air, only to be rebuffed by what she portrayed as clueless bosses. McManus had an interesting response to that: "If you ask her again about quality and amount of coverage (we do), I don't think you'll find as much criticism as she said to Jon Stewart." He said he can't remember any of her pieces being cut down, but also said in his best manager-speak: "Every correspondent is always frustrated because they don't get on the air long enough and all their stories should be six minutess long. But we have an executive producer and managing editor that know the stories have to be two-and-a-half minutes long. Lara is pushing (her stories) as hard as she can," something she should be doing.

When the tabloid stories about Logan's affair with a defense contractor in Iraq were mentioned, McManus didn't seem to be too annoyed by the stories, citing that publications that want to publish that kind of stuff will. But in five years, he said, we'll be judging her on the quality body of her work and not who she sleeps with. Schieffer added to that by saying that Logan was "the greatest reporter of her generation." Quite the compliment, don't you think?

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