Friday, April 13, 2007

More gripes on Couric's Notebook

Continuing on EJW’s entry on Katie Couric’s Notebook… I have my problems with it, too. First, I have never been a fan of her, despite her credentials as a trailblazer in the broadcast journalism world. Her video podcasts “Eye to Eye with Katie Couric” are just plain boring. Who wants to look at five minutes of a talking head anyway, especially when it’s on a tiny screen the size of your palm?

But the latest page from her April 12 Notebook was a misstep. (View video here.)

Here is a transcript of that page, as printed on Media Matters:

COURIC: "Hi, everyone. Is America ready to elect a president who grew up praying in a mosque?

Barack Obama has arguably the most diverse religious background of any candidate ever. He was raised in Indonesia by a Christian mother and Muslim stepfather and attended a Catholic school -- but while growing up, also studied Islam. That background sparked rumors that he had studied in a radical madrassa, or Quranic school -- rumors his campaign denied, declaring that Obama is now a practicing Christian. Last month, the Los Angeles Times interviewed people who grew up with Obama. "We prayed in the mosque," one of them said, "but not seriously," noting that Obama also prayed with his Catholic schoolmates.

It's too soon to know what America will decide about Barack Obama or his background, but it's not too soon to wonder if America will see that as an asset or a liability.

That's a page from my notebook. I'm Katie Couric, CBS News."

According to the article in Media Matters, Couric “rehashed” myths about Obama that had not only been denied by his office, but had already been thoroughly debunked. The source for the L.A. Times interview seemed to have only fleeting connections with Obama.

Besides the less than full story presented by Couric, what bothers me about this particular page is that it is full of arrogance.

Granted, many many Americans probably are not ready to elect a president who has Muslim ties. And to think that we are tolerant enough to do so would be idealistic, if not outright naïve. But for a journalist to play right into such narrow-minded views, no matter how commonplace they are, is just reckless and undermines a journalist’s role toward greater understanding and democracy in our society.

But maybe I’m just an idealist.

Couric asks the question “Is America ready to elect a president who grew up praying in a mosque?” as if “praying in a mosque” was a deplorable habit, not fit for a president, nor an American.

Can you imagine any other journalist asking viewers “Is Westminster or Garden Grove ready for a council member who grew up praying to Buddha?” How about “Is California ready to elect a governor who grew up eating sausage?”

The great thing about Americ is that people can have as diverse backgrounds as day and night and still successfully run for office - regardless if you were a former actor, even a body-builder, have a thick accent, pray on the Quoran or believe in Mormonism.
Let’s remind ourselves that this is not so in most other countries in the world.

While America may not be perfect, journalists of Couric’s stature and influence should add to, not undermine, what other journalists are doing every day to strive for a better America.


At Saturday, April 14, 2007, Blogger Amanda M. said...

I agree that Couric is playing to people's narrow-minded views by bringing up the madrassa thing. The day after the Obama/madrassa forwards really took off on the internet, I watched Nightline and was so impressed. Nightline showed the origination of the rumor in a conservative magazine and then its spread to the internet. Then the reporter went to the actual public school where Obama attended and showed how very un-madrassa it was. He talked to the principal and some students. Then finally he spoke to Obama in person. They were standing up in a hallway or something. It was really informal, and Obama was forthright - like it was important to him to speak with the reporter even if they had to do it quickly. I was so impressed with Nightline on how they covered the issue - showing how it started and what the school was like and getting Obama's input. The reporter fulfilled his role to me. I don't have time or the resources to find out what the school is really like or what Obama has to say firsthand about the rumor, so I need a journalist to do those things for me. It scares me that Couric would play into the rumors because I know not everyone saw the Nightline I did and can put the issue to bed so easily. Another thing about that whole thing was how it made me long for a media-friendly president. It is disgusting how in the dark we are about so many things because our administration makes everything so opaque. I look forward to a president who can talk to people no matter how unpleasant the issues are.

At Saturday, April 14, 2007, Blogger HAW said...

I am starting to think Katie Couric is lacking in the intelligence or judgment department, or maybe in both. I think she is trying too hard to be a controversial, hard-nosed reporter when no one sees her in that way. Maybe she should cool off for awhile and start gaining the respect of the viewing public. I acutally think she would do better if she would stop trying so hard.


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