Viewers rip Katie Couric's interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards
That's what Couric is facing the day after her 60 Minutes interview with presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth. During the interview, Couric asked the couple tough questions about whether it was wise for the Edwardses to continue on the campaign trail now that Elizabeth's cancer has metastasized and become inoperable. Instead of proceeding in her usual warm, smiling manner, Couric decided to be deadly serious, keeping a straight face and pursuing lines of questioning that started with "Some say," like when she said to the couple, "Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this."
After CBSNews.com posted the interview and allowed viewer comments, many took Couric to task for not being understanding enough, especially given her family history (her husband died of colon cancer in 1998).
"Instead of compassion and sensitivity in her questions, we got nothing but hard-nosed cynicism from Katie Couric. Her facial expressions, her body language and her tone of voice all conveyed stern disapproval (under the guise, of course, of "some people say ...")." said one reader. Said another: "Did she leave her job at the Today show to care for her sick husband? Did she leave the job to raise her children after he died? Katie has failed miserably as the head anchor on the CBS news and perhaps this is a desperate attempt to revitalize her failing career."
Many of the 67 pages (and counting) of comments are along these lines (Some comments even called Katie's line of questioning "partisan," which is strange, since she's usually accused of being too liberal). Mixed in are notes of support for Couric, as well as good wishes for Elizabeth Edwards.
I thought Couric's line of questioning was fair. While I was watching the interview, I thought about Couric's experience, and I was actually pretty happy that she didn't involve herself in the interview, something that she has failed to do in the past. But she asked every question an outside observer would be curious to have the couple answer, namely how they can justify spending what may be the last months of Mrs. Edwards' life -- no one is sure how much time she has -- on the grueling campaign trail, much of the time away from their young children.
For their part, the Edwardses answered the questions gracefully, with John only briefly descending into campaign-speak. In fact, he admirably told Couric that anyone who votes for him because they feel badly for their family is making an "enormous mistake."
I used to wonder if a lot of this criticism of Couric came from the fact that she's a woman, but now I'm sure that it's the reason. Viewers just can't accept the fact that a woman is anchoring a major news broadcast, so they pick apart every move she makes. Granted, Couric has always been a lightning rod and more of a "look at me" personality than many of her contemporaries, male or female. But she's no more of a grandstander than Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Mike Wallace or any other person who makes a living reporting the news on TV. Yet, they haven't gotten nearly as much criticism as Couric. And it's because she's invaded the "boy's club" of evening anchors, daring to do something different with a tired format that loses viewers by the day.
Don't get me wrong; despite my defense of her, I'm not a big Couric fan. I think her skills are better suited for more of a newsmagazine or talk format than for an evening newscast. But I'm willing to see if she can grow in the job and become as trusted as Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson. I mean, why not? She's only been at it for seven months. If people gave "Gunga Dan" a chance, they should give Katie a chance.