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Video from Jennifer L. Pozner debating Dan Rather’s “tarting up, dumbing down” comments about Katie Couric’s CBS newscast: “People can have two thoughts at once…”

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

June 13th, 2007

As I wrote earlier, I appeared on Fox News’s “The Big Story with John Gibson” last night, to discuss the fallout from former CBS News anchor Dan Rather’s comments about current CBS News anchor Katie Couric “dumbing down and tarting up” his beloved broadcast.

I feel pretty good about the segment, overall — as determined as John Gibson was in his attempt to get me to say Rather was completely correct or completely wrong, I remained firm in my contention that it was both sexist and degrading to women in journalism to describe Couric as “tarting up” the news, but that Rather’s point about the morning show product-shilling, celebrity-obsessed, fluffy ethos dumbing down the evening news was on target, not only with Couric at CBS but with former “Good Morning America” host Charles Gibson at ABC, too.

Gibson wasn’t happy with my refusal to advance a one dimensional argument… but, as I said on Fox tonight, “People can have two thoughts at once.” Check it out and/or read the transcript below, and if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it in the comments field:

Thanks for NewsHounds.us for posting the video — check out their take on the segment here.

Want to see more feminists brought into discussions about media sexism on “The Big Story with John Gibson”? Let Fox News know by sending your feedback to myword@foxnews.com. (Please forward or BLIND COPY your letters to WIMN: info[at]wimnonline[dot]org)

As usual, feedback is welcomed in the comments below.

QUICK TRANSCRIPT - I’m transcribing this myself, excuse any late-night typos.

John Gibson: So Jennifer, when Rather was saying that they, that CBS tarted up the evening newscast by what they were doing by bringing sort of the Today Show idea to the CBS evening news, what was so bad about that? Suppose he’d said they’d feminized the newscast - would that have been better or worse?

Jennifer L. Pozner: Well, you know, I think using language like “tarting up the news” — he didn’t say feminizing, I’m glad for that, that would have been worse — but using language like “tarting up the news” is incredibly inappropriate, it’s out of line, it’s definitely sexist. No one would say that Charles Gibson eho came from Good Morning America tarts up the ABC World News Tonight broadcast. However, Rather does have a point when he points to the dumbing down of news based on bringing in morning news people who traffic in celebrity gossip, Hollywood entertainment stories, Paris Hilton 24-7, and that sort of thing.

Gibson: Let me get this straight: you’re agreeing with him, or disagreeing with him?

Pozner: People can have two thoughts at once. I’m agreeing that there’s a troublesome trend in dumbing down news, and that CBS continued that trend by choosing somebody like Couric instead of a woman like Christiane Amanpour or Maria Hinajosa or Laura Flanders, somebody hard-hitting.

Gibson: Yeah, but those are your tastes. I mean, CBS’s tastes, and the American people’s taste, ran more to Katie Couric than those–

Pozner: Well, that’s not actually true. Their tastes didn’t run to Katie Couric because the newscast is not doing very well. Their tastes run to hard-hitting — people want hard-hitting news coming out of an evening newscast.

Gibson: Yeah, but you’re substituting your judgment for the executives. And that’s not your job. They get to make that call. My point is, are you at the same time criticizing Katie in the same way that Dan is?

Pozner: No. I’m criticizing Katie for, I’m criticizing actually not Katie but CBS for going with personality over substance. My job as a media critic –

Gibson: Are you saying she’s not substantive?

Pozner: I’m saying somebody like Christiane Amanpour is more substantive. I’m saying that Charles Gibson is also not substantive, because they come from morning news shows that shill products and pump entertainment programs and interview, you know, “American Idol” and “Survivor” castoffs on a regular basis, and that’s what they brought into the evening news, and that’s a problem. I do think, though, that it’s also a problem that he said, used the phrase, very unfortunate phrase, “tarting up,” because that is very degrading to women. There are many many powerful, substantive female journalists…

Gibson: I’m trying to get this straight. I’m trying to get this straight.

Pozner: Yes.

Gibson: You say “tarting up” is degrading to women, and Katie Couric’s presence is degrading to women.

Pozner: Katie Couric’s presence isn’t degrading to women, but Katie Couric’s not a very substantive news anchor.

Gibson: OK. Jennifer Pozner, Jennifer thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Pozner: Thank you.

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