Anchor Astray! Katie Couric Does Glee

In Commentaries on December 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Katie Couric, stick to journalism. (Photographer unknown; courtesy CBS)

Maybe I shouldn’t get worked up over Katie Couric’s decision to portray herself on an upcoming episode of Fox’s Glee.

After all, Couric may be sitting in Walter Cronkite’s old CBS Evening News chair, but she hasn’t exactly inherited his mantle as the nation’s most trusted figure.

Who cares what she does when she’s not at the anchor desk?

I do.

If you ask me, news anchors should stick to journalism.

Admittedly, it’s an old-fashioned idea, but I’m clinging to it – without apology.

Here’s why: Anchors occupy positions of authority, even in an era when many Americans get their news from Facebook feeds.

But even though we may no longer turn to the anchors at suppertime to tell us what happened in the world that day, we still rely on them when big stories break.

If madmen fly airplanes into skyscrapers again, where will you turn for the latest information?

Chances are you’ll reach for the television remote; even if you choose to go online, you’ll probably wind up streaming TV news coverage.

During those moments, do you want your information to come from someone who’s palled around with Sue Sylvester and Mr. Schu?

I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not bashing Couric for the sake of it.

I like much of her work, and I admire her noble effort to reinvent the CBS Evening News.

But doing cameos on entertainment shows undermines an anchor’s authority and cheapens the reputation of the network he or she represents.

Yes, Brian Williams is funny, as he’s demonstrated time and again on The Daily Show and 30 Rock.

But now that we know Williams is such a good actor, what are we supposed to think the next time he dons his khaki vest and wades through the waters of some flood-ravaged city?

Is he reporting the news or just performing?

Is that serious face “real” or just an act?

I acknowledge that all television journalists are performers to some extent.

As my husband pointed out, there’s nothing natural about standing in a war zone and talking into a camera.

My response: This is television, so a certain amount of show biz is inevitable.

How much is too much?

I suppose it’s like pornography: You know it when you see it.

But Today co-host Natalie Morales appearing on The Marriage Ref as a fact-checker?

Meredith Viera hosting Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Andrea Mitchell calling Liz Lemon a “slut” on 30 Rock?

These examples don’t just blur the line that once separated journalism from show business; they obliterate it altogether.

Sadly, Cronkite himself may have blazed this trail when he played himself on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1974 – a rare lapse in Uncle Walter’s judgment.

Was it funny when Cronkite wandered into the fictional WJM-TV newsroom, reducing Ted Baxter to a fawning, blubbering mess?

Sure, but Mary Tyler Moore was plenty funny on its own.

It didn’t need Cronkite to get laughs.

And Glee doesn’t need Couric to sing.


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