September 6, 2006

Katie Couric’s Opening Night

21%

CouricThat’s the percentage of TV critics and online commentators who gave high marks to Katie Couric’s much anticipated debut as “CBS Evening News” anchor. The sample of 43 columns and commentaries was evaluated by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which this week launched its new website at journalism.org as an official part of the Pew Research Center. PEJ staffers rated the critics’ comments on a three-point scale ranging from “Boffo” (21%) to “So-So” (46%) to “Uh-Oh” (33%).

After an unprecedented buildup, the early verdict is in. A sampling of the nation’s television critics and online commentators finds more criticism than praise — and more mixed reviews than anything — for Katie Couric’s debut as anchor of the “CBS Evening News.” To get a sense of how Couric’s opening night played with the TV punditocracy, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism evaluated 43 columns or commentaries — primarily from daily newspapers — that weighed in on the former “Today” host’s inaugural newscast. Overall, 79% of the reviews were either mixed (46%) or mostly negative (33%). In raw numbers that translates to 20 mixed, 14 negative and 9 positive. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Jonathan Storm wrote that “her presence actually gave weight to a blab-filled report that threatened to float away on a cloud of tepid air.” But summing up the general sense among reviewers that Couric herself provided no particularly memorable or distinctive moments, Robert Bianco of USA Today ventured that “It’s hard to see how anything she did on the newscast could possibly have earned a strong reaction either way.” Read More