Monday, May 29, 2006

Life Is a Carnival
An AP story appearing in lots of newspapers this weekend talks about Katie Couric's adios from Today, which will happen on Wednesday of this week. Jeff Zucker of NBC has already gotten the festivities off to a ridiculous start, calling Couric "one of the great news broadcasters in history." Jeff, buddy, hosting a morning TV news show in the modern era is not exactly Edward R. Murrow doing battle with Joe McCarthy. Even taking that into account, however, a couple of facts in the story revealed just how much of a lightweight Couric is.

Fact 1: Her alarm clock goes off at 5AM. Her show begins at 7. I can't imagine how she gets to the office, goes through makeup and wardrobe, attends a rundown meeting, and does any significant preparation in such a limited amount of time, unless she's sleeping under her desk. By way of comparison, when Bob Edwards was doing NPR's Morning Edition, which airs live from 6 to 8AM, his alarm clock went off at 1:05. It takes more time to know what you're talking about than it does to sound like you know what you're talking about. Couric's talent as a quick study is useful in her job, but it's also a sort of carnival trick, like juggling six plates at once: "Beyonce, best of luck with your new workout video and thanks for stopping by. Coming up next, Senator Russ Feingold discusses the NSA wiretapping program."

Fact 2: The AP's David Bauder writes, "Couric is most proud of giving her all to make each segment a positive experience, whether it's a newsy interview or a cooking segment." Well, that's lovely. Unfortunately, if you're a journalist, making viewers feel good is not your job, and it certainly shouldn't be your goal. And that's the sort of thing that makes me wonder what will become of the CBS Evening News with Couric at the anchor desk. Remember, she once said an especially proud moment of her career was interviewing the Runaway Bride. It's one thing for breakfast TV (as the British call it--a term that captures the triviality of the form extremely well) to always end up perky and positive. It's another thing entirely if the "newscast of record" at the end of the day is going to try to leave a viewer with that same positive vibe. The only way to do it is to distort or ignore what's really going on in the world.

Recommended Reading:
The latest Carnival of the Godless, a biweekly compilation of worthwhile posts about atheism, is up. Hell's Handmaiden addresses the idea of America as a Christian nation, and notes that most of the documents Christians use to support this claim are colonial documents, such as the Mayflower Compact, the Massachusetts Bay Charter, and William Penn's frame of government for the Pennsylvania colony--which are not so much about the founding of the modern United States as they are about the founding of the local branches of the government that was overthrown in the 1770s. Post-1776 founding documents speaking in similarly religious terms are much harder to find. (I remember reading something a few years back in which a writer cited the use of "A.D" dating in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as proof the Founders were Christians, which is weak even by fundie standards of proof.) We shouldn't be surprised by this, though: relying on old texts and ignoring the way newer ones have replaced them is a lot like preferring the Old Testament to the New.

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