The Downside of Cheeky

NY Times on the Today Show’s Woes…

“Viewers – and most of them are women – like Ms. Couric’s cheeky, easygoing manner; affection grew into admiration after her husband died of colon cancer in 1998 and Ms. Couric made early detection her cause. (In 2000 she underwent a colonoscopy on the program.)

But “Today” has turned her popularity into a Marxist-style cult of personality. The camera fixates on Ms. Couric’s legs during interviews, she performs in innumerable skits and stunts, and her clowning is given center stage even during news events. “Today” hit a low point in July, when Saddam Hussein appeared in a Baghdad courtroom to hear the charges he will face when he goes to trial as a war criminal. All the networks interrupted their programming to show live images of Mr. Hussein – all except NBC. “Today” stayed on Ms. Couric swatting shuttlecocks with the United States Olympic badminton team.

Success on television can be as brutal as failure; the job of a network anchor, and particularly a morning anchor who must banter for hours on end, is more harmful to the ego than almost any other kind of public performance. Musicians play music, actors play parts, but anchors must play themselves – their looks, personalities and aplomb are on trial before millions of viewers every morning. It’s the kind of scrutiny that distorts even the sunniest, healthiest disposition.”