Couric and Company – Reviewing the Blog

Hugh Hewitt looks at the new CBS Evening News blog – Couric and Company and pronounces it “perky” which makes one wince. He suggests that the blog editor, Greg Kandra, has a rather thankless job. (Well, Hugh actually calls it, “the most embarrassing gig in the entire blogosphere.” I completely disagree, there. That job has been taken up by whoever it is who runs about DU and Koz deleting comments by dissenters in order to maintain blog-purity and conformity, but I digress).

It may well be rather a thankless task to put up a blog in another’s name, and to have one’s own good and distinctive writing cast under a bit of an “umbrella” where it might be construed as someone else’s work. But I think it says something about the editor’s talents that he – a serious writer with some serious recognition behind his work – has managed to find a tone which “works” for a Katie-related blog – that is, sprightly-but-observant, cheerful but newsy. If Couric can put on the television screen the vibe that Kandra creates on the blog, her broadcast will be something very new, and frankly it will be a welcome change from all those years of Dan Rather’s uncertain grin and pleading eyes. I am still disinclined to like Couric – I still don’t trust her to be anything more than a Democrat-mouthpiece-cum-Nantucket-hopping-glamourpuss – but she made a good decision with the blog.

Full disclosure: I have never met Kandra but have corresponded with him for years, literally years, after having encountered him on a Catholic forum. We send each other goofy postcards when we travel. As indicated from his Bio, he is close to being ordained a permanent deacon in the Catholic church, and you have read his “practice homilies” on this blog re Palm Sunday and on Mary. That he is still a good and real friend while enduring (not always cheerfully) my well-intentioned tendency to um, “defecate on the press” (his words) speaks volumes about his character. Sadly, it speaks about mine, too, I guess!

One word of caution to a new blog from one with a little experience, they’ll have to guard against turning the blog into a Katie fansite. Couric’s “cute cheerleader” factor was a plus on the Today show – it will be a fatal flaw if it takes over the nightly broadcast or the blog. Talk about her in pajamas and you’re setting up a lightweight sorority-sister-in-furry-slippers image that will only remind the world that Katie has excelled in the past at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And please, God, spare us the pictures.

Ms. Couric has made a few posts on the blog – she’s into “word-of-the-day” entries (which I actually like; when my kids were growing up, I’d make them bring a new word to the dinner table, defined and used correctly in a sentence.) Her first word of the day: Gravitas!

You have to like that. Couric has to know that the right-wing blogosphere has frequently made fun of the press’ overuse of that word during the 2000 election (used to describe candidate Dubya’s need for Dick Cheney, of course) and she has probably heard herself saying it – over and over – during Rush Limbaugh’s frequently-played montage. I’m thinking perhaps she is aware that many bloggers have gleefully flung the word around in the past few weeks about Couric, herself, so that’s a funny, slightly in-your-face and slightly self-deprecating toss-off to her critics, I think. Ballsy and easy to appreciate.

Where Couric succeeds with “gravitas,” though, she fails with her “Quote of the Day,” (shouldn’t that be “for,” not “of”) this one from Teddy Roosevelt – which comes off as defensive in the face of her critics, and a bit self-important:

“It is not the critic that counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” —
Teddy Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1910

Hugh Hewitt wonders: Is this a none-too-subtle rebuke to Couric’s many critics? If so, it is to laugh. A network anchor-person apparently thinks of herself as the “man in the arena,” blissfully numb to the fact that all she does is read a teleprompter detailing the actions of people who actually are in the arena.

I can only add that while I’m sure Couric has felt herself in the middle of a maelstrom over the past few weeks, over-scrutinized, asked stupid questions about her hair and wardrobe (uh, btw, Katie? The white jacket? Say goodbye to it til next spring) and roundly booed from one side and doubted by many on the other, she has ironically chosen a quote which is a favorite on the right-side of the blogosphere, usually applied in defense of…George W. Bush. You know, the guy who – every time he wins an election – thrusts Couric into an all-black wardrobe of mourning.

I think one can say with some accuracy and no rancor that the “arena” imagery is much more apt when applied to the press-pummeled President Bush than when applied to a well-marketed and gently-handled news anchor. One does wonder, though, if – having tasted the whirlwind – Couric might have gained a little genuine insight (and a little sympathy) for what a president – this one in particular – must endure day in and day out from the voracious and tireless media.

What will be interesting (and fun) about the “Quote of the Day” feature, though, will be watching those bloggers (on both sides) who look for hidden messages everywhere begin to twist and turn as they wonder, “what does she really mean with this quote?”

For example today’s quote: “Present fears are less than horrible imaginings.” (from “Macbeth”). Rightwing bloggers will narrow their eyes and growl that she means to criticize the War on Terror and accuse the Bush administration of fear-mongering. Leftwing bloggers will be chuckle, convinced that this is exactly what she is doing (because in the blogosphere, everything is about George W. Bush). A few bloggers will find the quote an admission of her own anxiety leading up to her initial broadcast. Very few of us will simply think…ah…that’s a phrase Couric uses to help herself cope with worry and anxiety. Occam’s Razor says that last guess is probably closest to the mark.

Related: First Reviews of Couric.

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