Bear with me for a minute, but Katie Couric reminds me of Civil War Hero Robert E. Lee.
I'm reading a page-turner of a book about the battle of Gettysburg entitled 'Gettysburg The Last Invasion'.
The book was released in time to mark the 150th anniversary of the North American continent's bloodiest battle ever.
In reading the tome, I was struck by the numerous image and reputation parallels between the legendary Rebel leader and the one-time media darling. To wit:
– As Lee's three corps crossed the Rappahannock River, headed north into Maryland and entered Pennsylvania, they seemed absolutely invincible. Indeed, Lee was convinced one more Confederate victory would force Lincoln to sue for peace. And, he had every reason to believe he would win. In two fierce years of engagements with the North, his army entered Gettysburg undefeated (Antietam was considered a stalemate).
Likewise, from the time she joined The Today Show as an oh-so-cute, oh-so-perky co-host to first, Bryant Gumbel, and later, Matt Lauer, Katie became an unstoppable force. She was almost immediately crowned the queen of the morning talk show circuit, and reigned unchallenged for years.
– Lee then committed a series of unexpected blunders during the course of the three-day battle at Gettysburg, culminating in the complete disaster that was Pickett's Charge.
Katie made the unbelievable blunder of thinking she somehow possessed the journalistic chops to sit in the same CBS Evening News seat that had been occupied by the likes of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather.
In my opinion, her sole accomplishment as CBS News anchor occurred when she eviscerated the brain-dead Sarah Palin just before the 2008 election, 'So, you can't name a single book or newspaper that you've read?' asked a befuddled Katie. 'My people give me things. I don't recall their titles,' responded the thoughtful Alaskan soccer mom.
The CBS Evening News became Katie's Gettysburg. She was soundly defeated. Viewers quickly saw through the thin veneer, realized the woman lacked the necessary gravitas and began channel surfing. I actually predicted at the time that Katie would end up as an afternoon talk show host of the Oprah variety. And, she did.
And, now, just like Lee in the years after Gettysburg, Katie is losing again and again.
According to a New York Post article, Katie's show may not even make it to a third season (insert link). The reasons why include a lack of direction and strategy, "…staff weirdness' (that can't be good) and "…no one making decisions." And, as is true of Katie herself, one critic said her show was "struggling…to find a balance between fluff and news."
Industry watchers are speculating that Katie might join CNN, which would be ironic since Sarah Palin has just joined Fox News. Maybe the two could re-engage in mortal combat as a far fluffier, more banal version of the Bill O'Reilly – Jon Stewart wars?
Katie's brand is battered and bloodied because she lost sight of her strengths and tried to be someone she wasn't. And, thanks to the passage of time, she simply can't get away with just her cuteness anymore. That may seem chauvinistic, but I'd say the same of any male personality who suddenly tried to convince the world he was a serious journalist. One doesn't become an accepted member of the Fourth Estate just because one begins wearing eyeglasses.
The story of Katie is far from over. But, sadly, I see her ending up as Lee did at Appomattox: surrounded by younger, better-equipped foes with more ammunition. Katie is a one-trick pony. And, neither Katie nor the South will ever rise again.