Couric’s ‘Muslim Show’ Remark

Originally posted: January 5, 2011

by Jeff McCall

Greencastle, Ind. –  CBS news anchor Katie Couric used her web broadcast recently to suggest that a “Muslim version of ‘The Cosby Show’ ” might be needed to change American attitudes about Muslims.

Couric prefaced this suggestion by pointing out the bigotry that is sometimes expressed against Muslims and “the seething hatred many people feel for all Muslims.”

Couric’s guest in this discussion was comedian Mo Rocca, who acknowledged that he knew very little about Islam.

This discussion should concern CBS on a couple of levels. One is whether CBS’ most visible news anchor should be engaging in social commentary or devising entertainment programming. If Couric wants to do commentary, she should leave the anchor desk and do a commentary program. CBS News is already perceived in many polls as agenda driven. Couric should stick to anchoring news and leave social analysis for the commentators.

Next, Couric’s assertion about “hatred . . . for all Muslims” is surely overstated. As a reporter, she should provide substantiation for such claims and fine tune the discussion. Are Americans insensitive to all Muslims generally, or do they condemn extremists? Likely, it is the latter.

Finally, suggesting a sitcom to address such a complex matter is quite simplistic. “The Cosby Show” was a successful program, but its impact in addressing the nation’s race issues should not be exaggerated.

Couric is right that Americans could stand to know more about Muslims. Instead of dumping that duty on the sitcom program schedule, maybe she should use her role as the face of a major network news division to accomplish that goal through effective news coverage.

Jeffrey M. McCall is a professor of communication at DePauw University and author of the book Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences

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