Laura McKenna: Katie Couric’s Big Mistake

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What won’t I be doing?

I will not be sitting in front of the 6:30 network news.

More importantly, neither will any of the college students in my classes.

They are the news consumers of the future and the evening news has no place in their lives. I teach Politics and Media with reading assignments from the most widely used textbook in the field, but the students don’t know what to make of it. To them, it reads like ancient history. The author writes as if the world still looked up to news anchors. She refers familiarly and respectfully to Brian Williams and Katie Couric in a tone that assumes her readers - the students - also worship them.

Wrong. The students worship Jon Stewart. They have never watched the 6:30 news, not even once. They have never watched the local 5:00 news shows either. I have to actually assign students to watch the local news in order to get the students to watch those shows, so they will know what their textbooks are talking about. I might as well have asked them to go to a museum.

My anecdotal evidence is supported by research. In a recent study, Thomas Patterson from Harvard found that young people – surprise! – don’t tune into Katie or any other traditional news anchors. They don’t have the same daily news habit that their parents had.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetMediaYoung Adults

12 Comments
Posted January 28, 2008 at 6:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

I don’t know who either one of those people are.
But on the other hand, I threw away my TV 15 years ago.

January 28, 8:53 am | [comment link]
2. Jon wrote:

The author of the piece mentions Caitlin Flanagan.  So here’s an unashamed plug for CF!  She’s wonderful: thoughtful and extraordinarily un-PC.

One of the distinctive things about CF is even when know nothing about the subject she is writing about for some particular month, and if someone told you what it was you couldn’t imagine caring, but after reading a few paragraphs you find the essay fascinating nonetheless.  Her most recent piece (on Katie Couric and the Today Show) is like that.  Anyone with a spare moment should take it for a spin:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200801/flanagan-couric

The following page gives you a brief bio sketch and links to many of her essays:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/by/caitlin_flanagan

January 28, 10:44 am | [comment link]
3. Wilfred wrote:

Few watch network news now because the internet is faster.  Plus, you can choose what you want to read, without having to sit & be spoon-fed a story that is boring or full of liberal propaganda, while waiting to see what’s next.

We keep our TV in the basement, where it’s available but inconvenient.  That way, we only watch it every year or two when there’s an invasion, hurricane, Impeachment of a President, etc. 

And Mrs Wilfred no longer has to hear me yelling at Tom Brokaw.

January 28, 11:08 am | [comment link]
4. Marty the Baptist wrote:

It’s a bleak future alright.  College students don’t watch the news (maybe they never did), they don’t read books anymore (i think they used to), now they just absorb whatever spoon-fed gruel happens to be on Comedy Central.

Wake me when southpark is over.  I’ll need to go outside to “do my business”.

January 28, 11:32 am | [comment link]
5. Jon wrote:

#4…. hey Marty.  It’s probably not quite that bleak!

My experience is that #3 is right: that young people (and even middle aged people like me) are just as connected to current events as they ever were (i.e. some are and some not), but they get their info via the web.  This is a point that Caitlin Flanagan makes in her piece: that by the time that “the evening news” comes on, the very people who would be inclined to watch a news show have often already heard all those stories.

A good example of this might be T19 vs. (say) the printed issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY or CHURCH TIMES.  The typical person who is interested in breaking news about Christianity or the Anglican Communion is already going to know all the major stories days or weeks before he gets the printed copy of the magazine—he already heard about it on T19!

So what we are seeing in the death of the “nightly news” show is a change in HOW people get the news, not a symptom of a lack of interest in it.

January 28, 12:02 pm | [comment link]
6. Irenaeus wrote:

It isn’t just, or even mostly, that the Internet is faster [#3]. It has much to do with a pervasively Me-centered, entertainment-oriented approach to the world.

I don’t defend TV, which I rarely watch. Ironically, TV—-once known as “The Drug You Watch”—-has been overtaken even shorter attention spans than those it helped inculcate. Even TV news, itself a Lite shadow of its Edward R. Murrow past, can’t keep up.

January 28, 1:19 pm | [comment link]
7. SaintCyprian wrote:

I live in Scotland and I just graduated from university, everyone I know watches the BBC news.

January 28, 1:38 pm | [comment link]
8. RoyIII wrote:

Network news is obsolete just like paper newspapers.

January 28, 1:55 pm | [comment link]
9. libraryjim wrote:

I never watch the network news shows.  Occasionally, I will watch the LOCAL news broadcast, but not the national news.  If something is happening I might tune in CNN Headline news or Fox News, but that’s about it.  Too much of the Cable “news” is devoted to ‘talking heads’ and ‘talk shows’ not news (and that includes Fox).

January 28, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
10. Alta Californian wrote:

I never could stand Couric or Lauer.  She actually made me less likely to watch the evening news.  I like Brian Williams, I really do, but not really enough.  And our most trusted local anchor, Dennis Richmond out of SF, just announced his retirement, which will just about finish it for me with the local nightly news.

I agree with the general thrust of this article, but would only like to highlight that my generation (and the succeeding one or two) don’t get our news from Jon Stewart.  We’ve already gotten the news he’s lampooning from news aggregate sites like GoogleNews or Drudgereport (or specialty blogs like T19), and online newspapers (I check the SF Chronicle and Sacramento Bee and a couple of more local papers).  And I for one do watch the news on TV in the evenings, but it’s CNN more often than not.  But then I’m a news and political junkie.  Maybe others really do rely on Jon and Colbert.

January 28, 3:15 pm | [comment link]
11. Andrew717 wrote:

Sadly, I’ve know quite a few who I wish even relied on Jon Stewart for news.  I used to work with a woman who, in summer 2004, didn’t know we had invaded Iraq.  I’m being dead serious.  And several folks in that office wondered why I thought that was odd.

January 28, 3:33 pm | [comment link]
12. Marion R. wrote:

It is fallacious to paint this phenomena in generational terms. I am 47, no “early adopter”, and I haven’t really watched the evening news in 25 years.  I routinely watched with my family until I went away to college, then stopped all together. I am typical among people I know in all different situations.  The one continuing evening news watcher I know, my neighbor, died last year.  He was 78.

A more likely generational phenmomena is that the high schoolers and college kids I know don’t watch TV at all.  If they watch video programming it is on some other device.

January 28, 3:49 pm | [comment link]
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