You know your news is super-cozy when the new anchor asks viewers to send in suggestions for a signature sign-off line. Next up: Help me pick History’s Sexiest Dictator! Katie Couric’s redesigned format for the CBS Evening News is even more image-driven and patronizingly inclusive than the average newscast (a genre I’m about to desert altogether). There are info bites so quick and context-free, they just clog your brain like unchewed fat. A new feature called ”freeSpeech,” in which people famous and non spout off on issues, is junked up with extraneous images, apparently in a misguided attempt to attract the ADD generation. Do we really need shots of Hulk Hogan snarling to accompany Morgan Spurlock’s indictment of vicious punditry?
Couric can give a mean grilling when she wants to, so it’s all the more frustrating that her many interviews here feel so pageant-y. The camera often pulls out to include her legs — those shiny, toned, Joy-of-Pilates gams that upstage not only the interviewee but Couric herself. At other points, she puts on such an intense listening face, she might be competing for the top-secret-superspecial CBS ”Golden Ears” prize. The political is personal with Couric. So is the medical, the social, the economic… A segment on young girls getting the HPV vaccine was bookended by the anchor’s comments about her daughters. A piece on a funky fishing tournament was wrapped up with Couric’s succinct ”Eww, that looks scary.” By Sept. 12 she had almost 40,000 e-mails suggesting her new sign-off. How very democratic, how very accessible, and how very American Idol. Am I holding evening news to a higher standard than morning talk? Absolutely. It should be challenging, not childish.