Stay Where You Are, Katie

Katie Couric's serious consideration of the anchor job at
CBS Evening News is understandable. Better
hours, more money and the prestige of sitting in the same chair as Walter
Cronkite make it one of the most attractive jobs in television. But Katie could
use a little advice from an objective observer.

Don't do it.

Katie should instead recall the failures of those who have gone before
her, the women who thought they could make an easy transition from morning talk
host to evening news anchor.

Barbara Walters, the first to attempt the leap from morning to early
evenings, admits herself that her co-anchoring what was then the
ABC Evening News was a dismal failure.
Connie Chung, the second full-time network weeknight female news anchor, caused
the CBS Evening News to drop in the ratings
and fit uncomfortably with Dan Rather.

Others—for example, Deborah Norville, Kathleen Sullivan, Jane Robelot,
Lisa McRee and Jane Clayson—left mornings for lower-profile gigs. Even Maria
Shriver, Paula Zahn and Joan Lunden never quite caught the attention in prime
time that they did when they were featured in the early morning hours.

Success stories for women have come only when they were partnered with
others: Jane Pauley with Stone Phillips on Dateline, Diane Sawyer on 60
and PrimeTime Live, and
Barbara Walters on 20/20 and
The View. Katie Couric's fortune from
being the “girl next door” has also come from sitting next to a strong

Do viewers want to watch Katie sitting alone at a desk, sternly
delivering the latest disaster over the dinner hour? Probably not. Her image
has already struggled (and her Q score reportedly dropped from 24 to 19, lower
than the women on competing shows), and recent readjustments to
Today prove that NBC understands that
audiences want a playful, humble Katie. But those are different personality
traits than are needed for an evening newscaster.

Of course, all of the reasons not to take the job may be what drive her
to consider the position. She wants a challenge. It would help her flex the
journalistic skills she may feel are underutilized. And she could be the first
woman to ever successfully head an evening newscast.

Katie Couric is very good at what she does, and she is paid well for it.
She's the perky and intelligent morning cheerleader who dreams of being a
news quarterback. But her skills, and television history, reveal that she may
be happier staying on television's sidelines instead of trying to take over
calling the plays in the big game.