Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bob Schieffer Behind Katie Couric's Troubles?

Bob Schieffer and Katie Couric Roger Friedman, gossip blogger for FNC has an interesting item about the anti-Katie Couric piece that I blogged about yesterday. According to Friedman, the piece was done partly at the behest of Couric's predecessor, the seemingly avuncular Bob Schieffer.

That wouldn't surprise me, but before I get into why, here's Friedman:

[O]ne of Couric's frequently mentioned enemies is Bob Schieffer, the lovable, durable veteran journalist who filled in as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" between Dan Rather's departure and Couric's arrival.

But sources say that Schieffer has been unhappy lately, mainly because his airtime, which was prominent when Couric first started, has dwindled in recent weeks.

It's been suggested that a hit piece on Couric written by Gail Shister in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer was inspired by Schieffer as its main source.

"He has a direct line to her," one insider said.

This type of thing is hardly unprecedented within the television news business. CBS isn't quite the San Diego of "Anchorman," but it's had no shortage of anchor feuds.

Back in 1981 when Dan Rather replaced Walter Cronkite as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News," there was a lot of bad blood between the two. Cronkite did not want to retire but was forced out. With Cronkite out, CBS News was remade into Dan Rather's personal image. That picture did include Cronkite.

Initially, Cronkite had intended to enjoy his retirement but also periodically file pieces for television. "Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away; they just keep coming back for more," was the way he described it.

But Cronkite's dream never happened. The new management team of Dan Rather and Van Sauter saw to it that Cronkite almost never appeared on "Evening," relegating him to special events coverage. Eventually, he was phased out entirely.

Cronkite never forgave Rather for this. Following Rather's infamous 1987 incident where he stormed off the set after a women's tennis match threatened to intrude on his show and left CBS with six minutes of dead air, Cronkite publicly said he would have fired his successor. In the intervening years, Cronkite has publicly and privately trashed Rather. After Rather was forced to quit in disgrace following his 2004 Memogate scandal, Cronkite showed Couric a helping hand by doing the voiceover for her "Evening News."

It wasn't just Rather and Cronkite who were at each other's throats, either. CBS's forgotten anchor, Connie Chung, also found herself subjected to merciless attacks from within CBS after she was hired to co-anchor "Evening" with Rather in 1993. The miffed Rather regularly called up the nation's TV columnists and trashed Chung and her coverage.

Now, it seems history is repeating itself. The new anchor, Couric, is finding an institution that is not her own (especially since she came over from NBC) turning against her. How long will she be able to hold out? Ratings probably are the only clue. Rather was able to last in part because shortly after he came in, he kept CBS number one for a while. If Couric does well, she'll stay. If she's in this spot two years from now, I doubt it.