Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Morgan Freeman dust up

Back in 2006, when Katie Couric started anchoring the CBS evening news, viewers were comforted with the trusted and familiar tones of the legendary Walter Cronkite introducing Katie with the news open. It goes without saying that Mr. Cronkite's voice was one of the most recognizable voices on TV. Not to mention his unforgettable, nightly news sign-off, "And that's the way it is." Since his passing, CBS big wigs decided to replace his voice with that of actor Morgan Freeman's as the news intro. This has caused a major uproar on forums everywhere. Just Google "Morgan Freeman replaces Walter Cronkite," and you're likely to see links to comments from news viewers who are less than thrilled with the change. Some take issue with the way Mr. Freeman pronounces Katie's last name. He says it more like "Coor-egg." I even saw one post on a voice over forum where the individual said that when Mr. Freeman was hired to record the news intro, no one wanted to direct "The Great Actor," and decided to let him do it his way.

My take on it is somewhat different. I think CBS hired Morgan Freeman because he has one of the most distinct and recognizable voices in the industry. And as far as directing him to voice a more classic, stylized news intro with a promo voice, I believe they hired him to be Morgan Freeman, not "Morgan Freeman trying to sound like an announcer." Some voice over colleagues of mine have noted how he mangles Katie's name. One adamantly stated on a forum, "Well, I think it's horrible! As voice over folks, we're hired to say things correctly with clear diction and enunciation." My response would be that Mr. Freeman is not a voice over artist per se and secondly, if perfect diction and enunciation were qualifiers for being accepted by the public, then Tom "Marble Mouth" Brokaw or Barbara "Wa-Wa" Walters would have never had flourishing journalism careers on TV.

Just for the record, here's what the big shots at CBS had to say regarding pulling Mr.Cronkite's news intro and replacing it with Mr.Freeman's.

"As comforting as it is to look back on the great career that Walter had, we're looking forward now and we just felt it was the right time to make the move that at some point had to be made," said CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus. "This seemed like the appropriate time since Walter's passing to make the move."

Having Freeman on board gives CBS the flexibility to record different intros when Couric has special reports and is on location, he said.

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