Katie Couric's Digital Diet

The following is a transcription of the September 2, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.

ERIC BURNS, HOST: It's time now for our "Quick Takes" on the media.

Headline Number One: "Weapons of Public Relations"

The Washington Post reported Thursday that U.S. military officials are looking for a P.R. firm to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq, in both American and Middle Eastern media outlets. The U.S. is willing to spend $20 million for a two-year P.R. campaign.

News of the campaign comes the same week that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld blasted coverage of the war, and not for the first time.

Let's start with whoever here is in favor of this.


OK, let's go to somebody else then!

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: Well, I've said on this show many times that the real battle in Iraq is over the media. It's over the larger -- what I call the "mediafield," even the larger than the battlefield, the hearts and minds — not just in Iraq, but around the world. So you can't really blame the administration for trying to figure out some way to — to win that war.

Now the question comes, if that P.R. effort in Iraq bleed back into the 2006 midterms, that will be open season for Neal.


NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Can I blame them then? Because how stupid do they think the American people and the media are? After four years of lies, misleading statements, incompetence, that we're compliant enough to say, Oh wait a minute. It was just a P.R. thing.

Here, you want to save them $20 million, and save the taxpayers $20 million? I've got an idea. Not a P.R. campaign. How about a better policy in Iraq?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, how about success? That's was I was trying to say. I'll do it for $10 million. I can work cheap.


THOMAS: But I think this is - first of all, we've got all these people on the payroll who are public relations people at the Pentagon; each of the armed services have their own public-relations person. And how is this supposed to work? Are the public relations people either inside or outside of government who are going to be hired for this $20 million? What are they going to go to — an NBC, a CBS, an ABC, a FOX reporter, say, Hey, I've got this great story over here. Do you want to cover it?

Well, most journalists are going to think, oh, wait a minute; this is just a P.R. thing and they're going to ignore it. -- I don't see the point of this. I think it's a stupid idea.

GABLER: And things are going well anyway in Iraq.

HALL: I think that internationally, you know, there's tremendous anti-Americanism. It would be good for us to have better policies, and try to figure out why, Iraq being the prime example.

But I it's very chilling and serious to start monitoring The Washington Post, L.A. Times, New York Times for not being positive enough on the war. That to me is a really chilling thing for this information to spend that money to do that.

BURNS: "Quick Take" Headline Number Two: "Schieffer's Swan Song."

He was supposed to fill in as anchorman on "The CBS Evening News" for six weeks. Eighteen months later, this past Thursday, Bob Schieffer said goodbye.


BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS EVENING NEWS INTERIM ANCHOR: Good night, everyone. I'll see you the next time from Washington.



BURNS: Neal, applause. Justified?

GABLER: Well, he brought them hire ratings. And it's also interesting that as he leaves, he's an anachronism. Because the touchy-feely school of anchoring, of Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric, are the antithesis of what Bob Schieffer represented, which was reassurance and credibility.

THOMAS: If Dan Rather was the Richard Nixon of journalism, then Bob Schieffer was the Gerald Ford. He brought in credibility. He brought in stability. And he brought in some calmness after Rather's tornado, or "hurricane" experience.

But look, all of these people see the world through the same prism, and so does Katie Couric. It isn't the gender; it isn't the age; it is the world view. Bob's a great guy. He did a good job. But nothing will change.

PINKERTON: Well, I kind of agree with Cal on that. But Bob Schieffer is a nice guy, not a nut, and didn't destroy his career like Rather did. So, of course he gets a nice sendoff.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think it was kind of fun as I approach, you know, senior citizenry status that all this talk about appealing to younger viewers, that he did bring them higher ratings. And it was kind of interesting. And he's going to go write Country western songs, which I think is also interesting. And he's from Texas, I like that.

BURNS: You know, you look a lot younger.

HALL: Thank you.

BURNS: What's this -- what's your sign?

Also on Thursday's "CBS Evening News," Schieffer introduced his successor.


SCHIEFFER: My friend Katie Couric.


You know, I can't imagine following in the footsteps of a kinder, more gracious person. So thank you so much for everything.


BURNS: That brings us to... "Quick Take" Headline Number Three: "Katie's Not Really Thankful for Everything."

This picture was taken a few months ago, after it was announced that she would be Schieffer's successor. And here is the same picture, sort of, in a recent CBS publication.

How did she manage to lose so much weight? Computer trickery. In other words, she didn't really lose it; it was edited out.

Well, what do you do with weight, Neal? Do you edit it off?

GABLER: Edit it off. I don't know!

BURNS: Look, this is...

GABLER: I thought she looked a little chunky in that Bob Schieffer story.

BURNS: Let's be clear: it seems to be, Jim, a decision that PR people made, not Katie Couric. Is this a small thing worth just a little chuckle? Or is there a larger issue here?

PINKERTON: I wouldn't be so sure that she's not supervising, and her handlers and entourage, every aspect of her public image with CBS, for all the money they're spending -- they're paying her for all the money she plans to make off this.

This is a digital they gave her, which is nice. But I think it speaks volumes to the level of intellectual corruption that CBS News is bringing to this enterprise now.

THOMAS: Well, look: they do hair, they do makeup, they do lightning -- some of the older anchors have the special, you know, gauzy lenses that make it -- so what's the difference? So a littlePhotoShop.

HALL: Let me just say they wouldn't done this...

BURNS: PhotoShop, by the way — excuse me, Jane — PhotoShop is the name of the computer program that we use to do this. I don't know that because it's been done on me.

THOMAS: Well, now that you bring it up, you could use some help yourself!

BURNS: I don't really look this good.


HALL: All right. Let me say a couple of things.

One -- first of all, you know, I think they are trying to roll this out almost like a political campaign. I am not willing to write her off yet, at all! And I also think they never gave Bob Schieffer a digital diet, which speaks to the sexism inherent in doing it, and in the way we look at women on TV.

GABLER: It's a mentality problem. And the mentality is that anchors have to look beautiful. They have to be young. And I don't understand why. Why in the world should an anchor, who's giving you news, have to look in any particular way?

BURNS: And this comes right after, or - or - or just as an anchor who was an older...

HALL: It's a double-standard!

GABLER: Who was avuncular.

BURNS: Yes, avuncular.

GABLER: Seventy years old, and whatever...

GABLER: And who got higher ratings. So figure that one out.

THOMAS: It's about reaching the female audience for the advertisers.

BURNS: Are you troubled at all with the ethics here?

GABLER: No, I'm not troubled by the ethics. I'm troubled by the mentality.

BURNS: You're troubled by the ethics of everything! And not this?

GABLER: Not here.

BURNS: All right.

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