The television world is abuzz because Katie Couric's ratings have hit bottom.
Her 4.89 million viewers in each of the last two weeks matched an all-time low for the "CBS Evening News."
Of course, TV viewership is lower in the summer, and Couric was off some of those nights. But here's what bugs me: On two of those newscasts, she reported from Afghanistan. The numbers declined, so ratings-obsessed critics declared the trip a failure. "Sending Couric to Afghanistan didn't work," says MarketWatch's Jon Friedman.
Are there not reasons for the CBS anchor to report on America's longest war other than goosing the Nielsens? If the New York Times sent a reporter to Kabul for a week and his or her stories didn't attract that many hits, would we say the trip was a failure?
Couric has done some good work in the anchor chair. The odds are she'll move on after the fifth and final year of her contract, which begins this week. It hasn't been a great fit for her or CBS, not for $15 million a year. NBC clearly wants her back, at least if Comcast keeps Jeff Zucker around after the takeover; Friedman suggests the peacock network create an interview show for her, to run after Brian Williams' newscast.
The marketplace judges anchors by ratings, which translate into advertising dollars. But let's not forget there's journalism involved, too. Just ask Sarah Palin.