Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Woman's Voice: Katie Couric

"After listening to my heart and gut," Katie Couric tells us she has decided to leave the Today Show to don the CBS anchor crown for a one-year probationary trial. David Shedden, the director of The Poynter Institute's library, just posted this interesting history of network anchors. Jill Geisler, also at Poynter, writes this open memo to Couric:

Good going, Katie.
The chair you'll occupy can be a pulpit.
What's your sermon?
Countless women in journalism hope your message is simple: news leadership isn't gender-limited. Old boys’ networks improve with estrogen therapy. And charisma and intellect aren't mutually exclusive.

Stay strong, Katie.
The chair you’ll occupy can be a target.
How will you dodge the snipers?
Speak truth to power, prudently but fearlessly, although messenger-killing is a sport these days. Be exacting about accuracy in a world steeped in speed. Be an ambassador for ethics, a voice for journalistic values.

Well well well. What's an anchor with a woman's voice to do in what Geisler calls
" an estrogen-charged environment?"

Earlier today The NY Times reported that the father of broadcast journalism, Walter Cronkite, ate salt and bread and spoke the truth and was bitten after for having done so. He said that men's voice's were better for voice-overs than those of women. Why? He said that we women speak in a higher register.

I don't think Cronkite said this out of malice towards women or jealousy over Couric assuming his legendery seat. I think he was referring to that thing called
" gravitas" that emerges best from voices that reach from the lower register. Because of hormones men speak lower.


Gravitas? Think of the time when when you heard " This is CNN..." in the old days, mouthed by the Darth Vader in the very lowest register that a male voice can utter. Now THAT is gravitas.

As a woman do I take umbrage with Walter? No way. My voice ain't the best. Check it out here by clicking on the broadband video version of a multimedia story I did for UNICEF in October working for a few days at their HQ cross-purposing video from the field for online usage. (I wrote the script after looking at the B-Roll and then tracked the narrative and followed up with a text story.) Or click to play the post with my Nightline story.

If you listen to my voice it's rather " thin", lacking gravitas. But it works OK. When I'm tired, my voice even cracks. So I've learned to compensate by going soft..kind of like speaking for NPR. Should I take steriods to lower my voice or slug back whiskey and smoke cigarettes to lower my voice? No way.

Will you ever hear me on the Discovery Channel? Probably not.

But for crossmedia and breaking news stories my voice works just fine.

And for CBS Katie Couric's voice is perfect.

More later in another post...

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