Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Katie's Loose Lips

I was an early cheerleader for Katie Couric getting a network anchor job. I thought she should have replaced Tom Brokaw. (Brian Williams? Duh . . .) When she finally did land Dan Rather's old gig, I really hoped she'd do great. After all, she was bound to do better than Dan Rather.

But, there were early signs of things going off-track. The big buildup was, well, unseemly. The first solo woman anchor! A bit of a stretch. Remember Barbara Walters? Not solo, so she doesn't count, I guess. What about Connie Chung's stint with Dan? Ditto. (What a brain trust that was.) And of course, the fact that Elizabeth Vargas was anchoring the news over at ABC was, well, apparently something else.

But still, I liked Katie! I liked that she did that whole crazy cancer thing on tv. That took guts. I liked the merry widow role after losing her husband. I liked that she wasn't afraid to show off her legs, too. Did you hear those mean spirited people getting on her case about being too old to wear skirts without hose on tv? They said her legs weren't that great anyway, and she shouldn't be trying to show them off. Pretty petty stuff. Katie's 40-something gams look great. If you've got it, flaunt it! In my age group, a perky pair of tanned, toned, well-seasoned legs goes great with that morning cup of coffee. That whole gossipy discussion only made me like Katie more, to spite her spiteful enemies.

Then, one day on tv, Katie's eyelids disappeared. At first, I couldn't believe my eyes. But it was true. She had some work done. A facelift. A surprising disappointment. What message was that meant to convey? That she would be both a news anchor and a spokesmodel for the news? What happened to being a role model? I for one liked Katie's face better the way it was. Real.

I suppose that since I almost never actually watch the evening news, my opinion here counts for very little. But that won't stop me from expressing it.

Katie, after all we've been through together, I am sad to say, has lost me as a fan. And here is why.

Recently she was reporting on the deaths of two US soldiers. She introduced the news of their deaths as a "footnote." Then explained that their deaths were "ironic." Apparently, it was Katie's perception of this irony that made their deaths newsworthy.

The young men had recently published an op-ed piece that pointed out that even normal, everyday life activities in Iraq now put people's lives at risk. It was in the New York Times. There is some anti-Katie sniping that this situation is exactly what irony is not, but such criticism misses the point.

The point is how Katie looks at people. Soldiers are people.

Come on, Katie! Two patriotic young people are dead! They were real. They had families. It's not a footnote! It is exactly why so many people are so very very pissed off about this whole Iraq clusterschnook.

How can Katie look at the American people and tell us that two of our young people just got killed, and the only reason it's worth mentioning, as a footnote, is because it's ironic? Was it just a poor choice of words, or has she gotten out of touch with people? Is that really how she thinks?

It seems so. She's not alone. A lot of people think it's not a big deal when a soldier gets killed. Soldiers are not wholly viewed as real people by some. They are just soldiers, and soldiers get killed. We all expect it, so it's not that big a deal. This is wrong thinking. Soldiers are regular young people wearing their work uniforms. Specifically, they are our young people who are willing to sacrifice for their country.

Katie got her job because of her perceived ability to connect with people. That's what's ironic.