Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ask Satan

Reader Übermilf writes:

Why is Katie Couric paid so much money, when she asks such inane questions of her interview subjects?

On yesterday’s “60 Minutes,” her expert probing yielded such vital insights as Hillary Clinton uses hand sanitizer and eats hot peppers to stay healthy.

Dear Übermilf,

I believe it’s because she has nice legs. She’s paid to look good on TV and be personable so that people will watch the network-sanitized news, which allows the network to charge the most for their primary product, national advertising time. Really, she’s a bargain.

I suspect there may be a misapprehension underlying your question, namely the belief that Couric is a journalist. Once upon a time, network news anchors were in fact journalists. For example, Walter Cronkite was a journalist. But that system was a relic of the time before the networks had any real idea how to maximize advertising revenue. When there were only three networks, and they all had the same misapprehension that it was a good idea to all have real news coverage at the same time, the old system was ok. But competition from cable and satellite TV changed all that. The networks had to improve their business models to stay competitive. Part of that change was morphing TV news into light entertainment, which is what viewers really want, as measured empirically by what they really watch.

Katie Couric asks softball questions because that’s her job. Hillary Clinton is on TV being interviewed by Couric because she knows she’ll get softball questions, likely pre-vetted ones at that. That’s how the system works. That’s what makes the network money.

There was a good documentary on this subject about 20 years ago, called Broadcast News. I recommend it highly, if you haven’t seen it. (Plus I do actually feel kind of badly about my role in giving the Oscar that year to Cher over the vastly more talented Holly Hunter.)

By the way, the actual news is now on cable, hosted by Jon Stewart. But I imagine you know that – it’s probably where you saw the Katie Couric softball questions to Clinton in the first place.

-- Satan

Other news: This is awesome.

Ask Satan will be back on Thursday. Send in your questions on any topic! Email Satan or write in the comments.


CTK said...

I want to smack Katie Couric upside the head with an iron skillet.

I remember when Katie bagged a choice interview with Hillary Clinton shortly after Bill was inaugurated in 1993: "Katie Couric goes one on one with America's new First Lady, asking the questions ONLY KATIE COULD ASK!"

KC: "So, do you ever wake up and think, like, 'OH MY GOD! I'm living in the White House!'?"

Holly Hunter was robbed.

Übermilf said...

Just because there's a logical explanation doesn't mean I have to like it.