Lament Of A Woman?
We've already discussed one theory to explain the ratings struggles of the "Evening News" today. Let's throw another one out there: Gender. New "Evening News" Executive Producer Rick Kaplan has suggested that "[h]aving a woman in the anchor chair is something the audience needs to get used to," and over the weekend, Gail Shister of the Philadelphia Inquirer said this on CNN's "Reliable Sources":
As much as we'd like to think that as a culture, that we have progressed to the point where it doesn't matter, I think that in news particularly, there is a sense that there is not the -- I hate the "G" word, but the gravitas when a woman gives the news, as opposed to a man gives the news. You also have to understand that the average news viewer tends to be older, 60 and older, so they are more entrenched in the tradition. And the tradition, until Katie Couric came in September, was white, middle-aged men.Last week, Rebecca Dana wrote a piece in Slate asking if Couric's "rocky start" means trouble for Hillary Clinton in her presidential campaign. She wrote that both the anchor and chief executive jobs have certain similarities: "It's not simply that both jobs are traditionally male. It's that both demand a certain stage presence—an intangible sense of authority, divorced from direct, measurable accomplishment." According to Dana's sources, there is still a "small but unmovable percentage" of the American public uncomfortable "hearing serious, scary things" from a woman. That presumably applies when it comes to both the Oval Office and anchor chair.
That may indeed be true. But a small percentage isn't necessarily enough to sink a candidate – or an anchor. And it's a mistake to extrapolate from too small of a sample. Couric and Clinton may both be women, but their similarities don't go much beyond that. Neither should be treated as the magical embodiment of womanhood through which we can understand our culture. That doesn't mean, however, that Kaplan and Shister are wrong.