If not Katie, then whom?
The reports have started again, and this time they may actually be true. Katie Couric, per two prominent reports last week (in the Daily Beast, and the LA Times), is expected to leave by June when her contract's up. The job of finding a replacement has begun. But who?
There have been four and a half anchors of "The CBS Evening News:" Doug Edwards, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Connie Chung (the half, as she briefly shared co-anchor status with Dan) and Katie Couric.
For months, even years, "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley has been considered the logical inside candidate to replace her when/if she goes. Reasons are obvious: He's anchorly – of serious mien, square-chinned, and capable; a good reporter, and excellent interviewer. He has everything that one assumes a major league TV anchor should have and which one assumes viewers of early evening want as well. Steadiness . . . calm . . . reliability.
And the point of this post, of course, is to suggest someone else. Someone with star-power and ability; someone who could do this and do it well; someone who could draw attention to the broadcast without sacrificing its credibility: Lara Logan.
And as promised Friday, the reasons, in no particular order:
- Logan's a serious news woman: She has nothing to prove in this regard. Nothing. She is deeply serious and committed to covering the stories that she covers in the world's most dangerous places, with not-nearly-enough regard to her own safety at times. She was blown 12 feet in the air when a convoy she was riding with in Afghanistan was attacked, and escaped serious injury numerous other instances. Time and again she's eviscerated the insinuations or outright assaults on her journalistic probity by detractors who have said she has used her looks to gain access or advantage. She's done this simply by doing the hard, grunt fieldwork that a first-class war correspondent – whether they look like a Lara Logan or a cave troll – must do to get a story under the most perilous of conditions. There are no shortcuts – and no "low-cut blouses," to cite the standard accusation of said detractors – that yield the kind of results she's had over the years. Logan's field experience would instantly and dramatically set her apart from both Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams, and would – and certainly should – allay any doubt in any viewers' mind that this is not someone of serious intention.
- Logan's a star: There are very very few household-name-ready stars to step into a job of this magnitude now employed by any of the networks – much less by CBS News. There's nothing wrong, per se, with being a star anchor; Williams and Sawyer are star anchors and were stars before they were anchors; impossible to define and easy to recognize, no one would suggest their stardom has damaged their respective broadcasts, or even drawn attention away from the work others are doing for those programs. News stars in fact bring attention and electricity; they don't melt into the set or disappear into the chair they sit in. They are bigger than both. They represent the institution they work for but also tend to symbolize it.
- Logan has no political baggage: Katie came with an enormous amount, and was never able to persuade a largely conservative base of viewers that she was some sort of leftist ideologue bent of contorting whatever agenda she was accused of contorting. Early evening news viewers – most of them – had long before made up their minds about Couric before she ever joined "Evening News" and nothing would ever change those minds. In that regard, Katie was doomed even before she began. Pelley and Logan both avoid this trap. Neither is saddled with any political preconception; they are political tabulae rasae.
- Logan's exotic: The voice, the accent, the background (South African). She is utterly unique – as far from utterly familiarity of Williams/Sawyer as a viewer could get. Do viewers want a Williams-anchored or Sawyer-anchored news? Of course, and those viewers have already made their selection. Nothing will persuade a Williams fan to leave for another program. But there are viewers who do want someone who's different. Logan stands the best chance of drawing them.
- Logan's a CBS veteran: Unlike Couric, Logan doesn't have to fight a rear-guard action with an established culture – CBS News – that has rarely, or at least enthusiastically, embraced outsiders.
- Logan may be ready for a change: During one of the busiest periods in international news in years, CBS's chief foreign correspondent has been off the air. Why? Her brutal attack in Egypt in mid-February has left her, perhaps, assessing her own future. That's understandable, of course. After years of reporting, she may simply have decided on a more sedentary role at CBS. Anchoring is sedentary, but not static, which leads to my last point . . .
- Logan could combine her skills as a correspondent in the anchor chair, or deploy them in a way that would create another point of distinction for the broadcast. A "field" anchor, or anchor who travels to various stories is not necessarily a contradiction in terms, and shouldn't be. Logan has skills, and there's no reason she should lose them if she becomes an "Evening News" anchor. Anchors typically traveled (and still do though not as much) only when the magnitude of the story somehow determined that the presence of an anchor would somehow convey the sense that something truly important had just happened. But why not a traveling anchor who had the flexibility to stay for extended periods in a place where they could bring real value to the coverage of a story? Anderson Cooper does it all the time. Cooper, in fact, is better as a "field anchor" than as a studio-bound one.