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Posted by on Apr 11, 2007 in Media | 18 comments

Producer Fired For Lifting Couric Notebook Item From W. S. Journal

One-time NBC morning news megastar Katie Couric’s troubled tenure at CBS News has just gotten more troubled with the supremely embarrassing story that a “notebook item” touted as her personal remembrance was in fact cribbed from a Wall Street Journal piece — and the producer responsible for it has been fired.

News anchors have an extremely difficult job because not only do they garner an audience by the quality of reporting on their programs, their accumulated personal imagery matters. And this one is not going to help Couric’s one bit. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz:

Katie Couric did a one-minute commentary last week on the joys of getting her first library card, but the thoughts were less than original. The piece was substantially lifted from a Wall Street Journal column.

CBS News apologized for the plagiarized passages yesterday and said the commentary had been written by a network producer who has since been fired.

The CBS anchor “was horrified,” spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said. “We all were.

The problem: this item was passed off as a personal “notebook” item. And while many who are savvy in the ways of the news biz know that such items are usually written for highly busy media news personalities, this one turning out to be in essence plagiarized is going to lend to the image that Couric is basically a “rip and read” celebrity — which does her a huge disservice since she is also a skillful interviewer. Kurtz continues:

The “Katie’s Notebook” items are distributed to CBS television and radio stations, including WTOP (103.5 FM and 820 AM) in Washington, and posted on the news division’s Web site. Genelius said it is “very common” for the first-person commentaries to be put together by staffers without Couric’s being involved in the writing, but that she does participate in topic selection. Her recent commentaries have ranged from the Iraq war and the paucity of female columnists to the movie “300” and many girls discarding dating for “hooking up.”

In an Editor’s Note posted online and distributed to CBS stations, the network said “much of the material” in the library commentary came from Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow, “and we should have acknowledged that at the top of our piece. We offer our sincere apologies for the omission.”

What made the ripoff especially striking was the personal flavor of a video — now removed from the CBS Web site — that began, “I still remember when I got my first library card, browsing through the stacks for my favorite books.”

If you boil it down you get this: in other words, Katie Couric can still remember what was in Zaslow’s memory? AND:

Much of the rest of the script was stolen from the Journal. Couric said: “For kids today, the library is more removed from their lives. It’s a last-ditch place to go if they need to find something out.”

Zaslow wrote in March: “The library is more removed from their lives. It’s a last-ditch place to go if they need to find something out.”

Couric said: “Sure, children still like libraries, but books aren’t the draw.”

Zaslow wrote: “Sure, there are still library-loving children, but books aren’t necessarily the draw.”

Kurtz has more — but how long do you want to keep watching a slow motion car crash?

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