Katie Couric is not just the anchor of the CBS Evening News, she is also its managing editor. As such she fell down on the job Monday, allowing a pair of reports on air that, combined, gave this viewer whiplash. Chip Reid and Sharyl Attkisson produced side-by-side stories that portrayed an incoherent editorial worldview. Couric could have handled the confusion with a bemused "on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand" introduction. Or she could have taken the two Washington-based correspondents aside and asked for a rewrite. Doing nothing was just negligence.
Reid, for his part, gave extended airtime to critics of Barack Obama's request that his Cabinet reduce federal spending by $100m. Obama himself "admitted $100m is a drop in the budget bucket," Reid conceded, before going on to quote the--accurate--Republican characterization of $100m as 0.0002% of federal spending. "A comparable cut for a family with a budget of $75,000 would be about $1.50." Then along comes Attkisson with her Follow the Money story on Rep John Murtha, the Democratic defense budget appropriator. Suddenly what is chump-change for Reid becomes significant public policy for Attkisson.
Murtha "is not shy about directing money to those who give generously to his election campaign," she thundered. Murtha is supported by a firm called the Commonwealth Research Institute, which encourages recipients of Murtha's earmarks to locate facilities in his hometown of Johnstown Pa. In all, Murtha proposes that earmarks be awarded to ten companies that supported him at election time, awarding projects with a total outlay of $31m. To use Reid's math, that would be comparable for a family with a budget of $75,000 to earmarks of 46c. That is 0.00006% of federal spending.
So come on Couric, where does CBS Evening News stand? Is $100m saved so small that it demands a story? Or is $31m appropriated so large that it demands another?
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