What Couric Left Behind

Think she'll be nostalgic for "Today?" Think again.

Hazing happens in many a fraternity — journalism included. And, with five days until Katie Couric’s debut as anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” Couric’s hazing at the hands of her peers (nit-picking inspections, dire predictions, unsolicited advice) continues apace.

To cite just a few recent examples: If “you ask some style mavens,” as USA Today did on August 9, “a waist-up camera shot won’t solve the problem of Katie Couric’s hair color (too brassy) and cut (too long). Then there’s her makeup (too dark), her clothes (too glam) and her skin (too tan).” On Marketwatch.com last week, Jon Friedman forecast that Couric would be a “brilliant failure” in her new job. And yesterday, when news broke that a CBS promotional photo of Couric had been Photoshopped to make her appear thinner, the New York Post helpfully called upon a clinical nutritionist to explain how, should Couric actually want to drop some weight, she might make herself look more like the slimmed-down photo (“[C]ut back on the junk, pretty standard stuff. Katie could eat more vegetables, cut down on carbs and increase her exercise…I know [Couric] has a trainer because she talked about it [when she was on ‘Today’] so she could have the trainer pump up her exercise a bit.”)

Who could blame Couric, at this point, for pining for her comfy old perch on the “Today Show” set? To Couric we say: here is what you are missing.

Among the handful of stories teased at the top of the “Today Show” broadcast this morning was the following: “Remember that CNN anchor’s embarrassing moment during the president’s speech when somebody left her microphone on in the bathroom? …Coming up what you can do if you trip over your own tongue.” Using CNN anchor Kyra Phillips’ recent on-air gaffe as the news hook, Matt Lauer convened an “expert panel” (a life coach and men’s magazine editor) and “Today” dedicated six minutes of air-time to a segment titled, “Oops. Bouncing Back from Blunders.” “Today” viewers were advised to “treat life as an open mic” and lectured that “sometimes these overheard moments, it’s God’s way of saying, ‘Listen, you’ve got some issues to work out.’” This, after reporter John Larson took viewers through past high-profile open-mic gaffes (President Bush talking to Prime Minister Tony Blair last month, for example) and concluded his report with his own staged “gaffe” — “Is it over? Highlight of my career, covering the anchor in the toilet,” Larson muttered at segment’s end, walking off camera. ” (Sadly, the folks at “Fox & Friends First” beat “Today” to it, having performed a similar stunt or “recreation” of Phillips’ faux pas one day earlier).

Other topics tackled recently by Lauer et al on “Today?” “Spas for Children.” (Lauer: “Catering to the beautiful and under 10, so-called kiddie spas come complete with mini manicures, pedicures, even facials.”). “‘Today’ Throws a Wedding Plays the Nearly-Wed Game (Lauer: “We’ve got the ladies sealed up in our soundproof, hermetically sealed booth. We’re going to ask the guys some questions about their fiancĂ©es, find out how well they know each other.”) And the “trend of Americans becoming more polite and Brits becoming ruder.” (Lauer: “The British used to hold the high ground when it came to good manners, but these days it seems they’re getting ruder and, believe it or not, Americans are becoming more polite.”)

Still feeling nostalgic, Couric?

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.