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Record Corrected On Katie Quotes; How Far Should An Anchor Go?

(AP Photo/Lotfallah Daher)
Late last week a report from Access Hollywood began making the rounds with its somewhat startling revelation that incoming CBS News anchor Katie Couric would not go to the Middle East to cover the war raging there. Citing comments made to Access Hollywood, the story quoted Couric saying: "'I think the situation there is so dangerous, and as a single parent with two children, that's something I won't be doing."

That would have indeed been big news, a broadcast anchor begging off a breaking news story. Unfortunately for Access Hollywood, the quote came from a May 30th interview and was made in response to the dangers of covering the war in Iraq in the wake of the death of two CBS journalists and the life-threatening injuries to correspondent Kimberly Dozier. It was in no way referring to current events in Israel and Lebanon but was certainly presented as such. The story, which ran on the Access Hollywood Web site, not the TV show, has been corrected with this note:

The comments from Katie Couric that earlier ran on were from a previous interview on May 30th in regards to whether or not she would go to Iraq in light of injured CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier. The Web site story has since been clarified and includes more recent comments that were given by Couric in regards to the current Middle East crises at the CBS TCAs (Television Critics Association).
The quotes from Couric's remarks to the TCA event were much different from the previous version of the story and includes, in part, comments like this: "Clearly if it's going to serve the story, advance the story, and be helpful to the story, I would like to be there."

With the record corrected, this might be a good moment to revisit the wisdom of sending network anchors to the scene of chaotic events like wars or disasters. Journalists face plenty of difficult hurdles just getting the news gathered in such situations, what does bringing a network anchor to the scene provide of substantive value? It may be compelling to see a anchor or star correspondent clinging to a telephone pole in the middle of a hurricane, but do we need to see it to understand the story?

The pictures we see pouring in from Lebanon and Israel are helping bring the reality of the fighting home. I don't think you could find much of an argument about the worth of getting those pictures and having reporters on the ground. But other than a background, I'm not sure what bringing the anchor to the scene adds to our understanding of stories like this. Am I wrong?