A Couric affair

The backlash Katie Couric has received for her interview with presidential hopeful John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth is not only unfair, but undeserved.

The backlash Katie Couric has received for her interview with presidential hopeful John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth is not only unfair, but undeserved. On March 25’s 60 Minutes, Couric asked the Edwardses questions that many Americans have been asking after hearing the news that Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer has returned: “Why is John Edwards continuing to run for the presidency if his wife’s cancer is more than likely incurable?”

After the interview aired, Couric received criticism for the questions she asked, as well as the manner in which they were delivered. Apparently, she wasn’t sympathetic enough. Nor should she have asked the questions that she asked. By some, she was deemed to have no feelings, heart or even tact. Bullshit.

The questions Couric asked were questions that should be asked. They were questions that had undoubtedly been raised by many people once news of Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer broke. In looking at the transcripts for the interview, Couric begins by asking Elizabeth how she is feeling. She asks them how they received the news, what went through their minds, how they came to the decision to continue campaigning, and then she asks one of the questions that many seem to have an issue with: “Your decision to stay in this race has been analyzed, and quite frankly judged by a lot of people. And some say, what you’re doing is courageous, others say it’s callous. Some say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful they care for something greater than themselves?’ And others say, ‘It’s a case of insatiable ambition.’ You say?”

How is that insensitive? How is that question, and the questions that followed thereafter, heartless and uncaring? They are perfectly valid questions that are fair game for someone who is running for the presidency, for someone who may become president during a crucial period of time for this world, as well as a crucial time in his and his family’s lives.

In a world where morals, actions and emotions play a great part, it would be odd had these questions not been asked. In conducting this interview in the manner that she did, not only did Couric do her job, but she let the Edwardses have an open forum. She allowed them to answer questions many people were wondering. The Edwardses have a family. While campaigning, they are out on the road, often away from their children. Is this not taxing on her? Is this fair to her children, having their mother away from them when she may not be alive much longer?

These are very human questions, and like it or not, the president is a public figure, and his entire life is in the public eye (did we not learn anything from the Clinton escapades?). It is natural to wonder if John Edwards will, if elected president, be able to do the best job that he can as president while dealing with his wife’s illness.

If Couric doesn’t ask the questions that are on Americans’ minds, what is the journalist’s job? Journalists are supposed to dig for the truth, ask the hard questions the everyday Joe doesn’t have the opportunity to ask. Ever hear of the saying, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out”? A level of skepticism and distance maintained in performing the job is not only expected, but required. There isn’t supposed to be any bias, special treatment or anything of the sort. Had Couric not asked such questions, she would not be a journalist. She does not have to be sympathetic. She does not have to pussyfoot around a subject. What she did show, however, was a respectful level of sympathy and respect-things that are inherently human. But she still did her job. Unfortunately, she is receiving flack for it.

America needs to decide what it wants. It needs to decide what the job of the journalist is, what the job entails and what the person doing the job needs to do when in this position. Look at the national news. What do you see? The typical middle-aged white dude in a fancy striped noose and expensive suit. Specifically, you now turn on CBS and what do you see? You see Katie Couric. A decent-looking woman who has hosted morning television who is suddenly on primetime. What do we expect to see from the male national anchor? Maybe stoicism, a commanding presence, self-sureness. If they’re good-looking, that’s just a nice bonus (unfortunately for females, the eye-candy male anchor is rarely seen).

However, when you’re female, it’s a whole new ballgame. Not only do you have to compete with the stoic males and the public’s preconceived notions of what they want to see while watching the news, you are also expected to be, above all, good-looking, but also caring, compassionate, reassuring, comforting, less demanding, less commanding, just…less. And more at the same time, as odd as it sounds. Yes, as clich퀌�d as it sounds, it is true. Being a woman is harder in the professional world. And Katie Couric is taking the fall for that.

Had Dan Rather or the late Peter Jennings given the interview, would they be in the same boat as Couric? Instinct tells me no. They would be doing their job. They would be considered “professional.” But Couric doesn’t shed a tear, she doesn’t hold back, she asks the questions that we as Americans wanted her to ask and CBS gets a truckload of complaints ranging from her being “cold” and “mean” to being a “hypocrite.”

Should we feel sorry for Couric? No, not at all. We should, instead, applaud her. Her interview did many things for many people: It gave the Edwardses more publicity as well as a voice to the inevitable questions that surround them. It provided fodder for her detractors and those who just like to hear themselves talk, and it showed her critics who had labeled her soft that she is nothing of the sort. Couric is a journalist. America just needs to remind themselves just what a journalist does, and should do.