Did CBS Shove Katie Couric Off the Glass Cliff?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
April 11 2011 2:25 PM

Did CBS Shove Katie Couric Off the Glass Cliff?

Jessica Grose Jessica Grose

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

/blogs/xx_factor/2011/04/11/katie_couric_and_cbs_was_she_set_up_to_fail/jcr:content/body/slate_image

Some of Katie Couric's colleagues at CBS seemed to want her to fail from the beginning: A Katie compatriot told the New York Times , "They never let her learn the secret handshake there." As Lea Goldman pointed out last week in this space, critics have been predicting Katie Couric's departure at CBS pretty much since she took the job as evening news anchor five years ago. Many have noted that the CBS Evening News was in third place when Couric was hired as anchor, and in third place the program remained .

Advertisement

It goes without saying that women were only given network anchor jobs after evening news broadcasts became less prestigious . Over a year ago when Diane Sawyer took the helm at ABC World News , Kristin J. Anderson speculated in Psychology Today that Sawyer and Couric were victims of an organizational phenomenon called the glass cliff -studies have shown that women are more likely to be given illustrious positions during times of crisis. Anderson continues:

One possible reason for putting women in positions with greater risk of failure is that women may be seen as more expendable and better scapegoats. If you believe that men are natural leaders, if a company fails under a man’s leadership, you would look for explanations for the failure other than the man’s gender. In contrast, if you believe that women don’t really belong in positions of authority, and if a company fails under a woman’s leadership, you might point to the leader’s gender as the explanation...a more cynical explanation is that organizational leadership might believe that putting women in high risk positions is a win-win strategy: If a woman succeeds after being placed in a difficult position, then the organization is better off; and if she fails, the woman can be blamed and the prior practice of appointing men can be justified and resurrected. At the same time, the organization can present itself as egalitarian and progressive.

Whether the glass cliff has anything to do with Couric's contract not being renewed is debatable-that CBS Evening News remains in third place is a fact (though it's worth noting that according to the Times , Couric lowered the median age of the program's viewers to a spry 60.6). The latest chatter is that Couric is in talks to host a syndicated talk show, possibly with current Today Show host Matt Lauer. This seems like a wise move for the winning Couric. If she's learned anything from her time at CBS, it's better to start fresh, rather than try to bail out a sinking ship.

Photograph of Katie Couric by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.