Kurtz Book: Divas, Lightbulbs and Ratings

By Chris Ariens 

With little fanfare, and six years after his last book, Howard KurtzReality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War is bursting onto the TV book scene today. HuffPost‘s Rachel Sklar has more excerpts.

Why Diane Sawyer cooled on an evening news slot:

It had been clear for some time that [Katie] Couric was headed to CBS to take over Dan Rather‘s old job. If Sawyer were to take the plunge as the second woman to be the solo anchor of a nightly newscast, she realized, all the press coverage would be about dueling divas. Never mind that they knew each other only slightly. Women made great copy, that was the way the popular culture worked… She did not want her evening news tenure to be viewed through that prism.

Nightly News’ slide to second:
[W]hat was killing the newscast, [Brian Williams] thought, were the budget cuts at the network’s ten O-and-Os, or owned-and-operated stations. All these cutbacks, Williams believed, were slicing into his lead-in audience in the major markets in a way that coincided with his ratings slide. Williams took his case to Jeff Zucker. “These cuts are killing me,” he said. He also appealed to Jeff Immelt at GE. “You’re the most important single asset to the company,” Immelt assured him. It was nice to know that he was even more vital than lightbulbs, Williams thought, but that didn’t make the problem go away.