The Gab at CNN: Soledad's 'Very Brave' Hero Katie Couric, Larry King's Musical Heir?

April 21st, 2007 6:58 AM

It's very natural for journalists, just like anyone else, to dismiss scandals when your friends or heroes are involved. As CBS anchor Katie Couric is embarrassed by having a ghost writer make up her childhood memories -- and plagiarize someone else's work -- CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien insists it will pass, and insists that poor Katie is often personally attacked because she dared to be a pioneering woman anchor. The New York Observer reported:

The Transom asked for Ms. O’Brien’s take on the recent scandal over at CBS, which fired producer Melissa McNamara after she plagiarized a Wall Street Journal column for one of Katie Couric’s first-person commentaries. “Well, you know, she’s a mentor of mine, so I talk to her all the time,” Ms. O’Brien said of Ms. Couric. “When I was at NBC and I didn’t have an agent, she called up her agent, and the next thing I knew, I was represented by CAA. I mean, people don’t do that. So I’ve always been incredibly grateful to her.

“I think she’s a great role model for women, because she’s made a very brave choice,” Ms. O’Brien continued. “She’s gone out and tackled something, and nobody before her—no woman—has done the evening news, and I think she has gotten a lot of barbs because of that. Some of the attacks are very personal, and because she is a woman. I’m sorry to have to admit that, but it’s true. I think she’s handled it with grace. This too shall pass, because one thing Katie Couric is, is a terrific journalist. Everybody knows that. And Brian Williams too!”

Forgive me if I just roll my eyes at the "no woman has done the evening news" line spilling out again. Barbara Walters and Connie Chung were national co-anchors at ABC and CBS. Women were solo anchors of the evening news on the weekends for years in the 1980s and 1990s, and even Elizabeth Vargas was a solo anchor at ABC months before Couric (due to co-anchor Bob Woodruff's wounds in Iraq.) Couric's historic landmark is that she is the first female solo weeknight news anchor officially announced by a network in a press release. (Since ABC carried the pretense that Bob Woodruff was still a co-anchor as he recovered for many months.)

Also in the CNN world, Larry King never wants to retire, but he has been honoring younger men with the idea they could replace him whenever he goes. In a USA Today interview, King recently anointed new CNN anchor John Roberts:  

Q: Go ahead, anoint your successor.

A: (CNN's) John Roberts. He was a great White House correspondent, and he's a natural interviewer.

That might seem like an honor. But before Roberts, King had anointed a different successor -- American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. He called him a "classic generalist," but didn't know if he had any game in the political arena. The comparison of Roberts and Seacrest isn't completely off-base, since Roberts used to be a video jockey in Canada (he went by the name "J.D. Roberts.") One of his old CBS colleagues told me they used to needle him by calling him "J.D." in the hallways.

PS: When asked who his top five interviews were, Larry King cited Frank Sinatra, two 1960s black leaders (Malcolm X and Martlin Luther King), and two annoying leftists (Mario Cuomo and Jane Fonda).