Comments: July 23, 2007

1. Ironically, this week we received the first comments on our “Comments” page. (“Get rid of ‘Comments.’ Bring back the letters,” wrote New Yorker Yael Visser, and some echoed the sentiment.) It’s ironic because this backlash came the same week of our Katie Couric cover story—which prompted an outpouring of comments, only a trickle of which came in the form of letters to the magazine. The rest were articles, editorials, blog entries, and published or televised responses. Some people seized on Couric’s slapping of a co-worker: stressed couric ‘slapped’ staffer, wrote the always understated Drudge Report, while CNN took to the streets to poll the people about the Slap. The Times wrote that Couric “came off as freer about her frustration,” while Salon told Couric to “grow a pair.” A National Review writer likened the story to The Diana Chronicles, saying, “In that shot of her in a pinstripe suit, [Couric] looks as wistful as Diana looked alone at the Taj Mahal.” Eat the Press, meanwhile, questioned the use of her quote—“I have days when I’m like, Oh my God, what did I do?”—on the cover, detached from the following sentence: “But for some weird reason, they don’t happen that often.” “Did she say it? Sure. Is it an accurate representation of her state of mind? Well, no—not if she’s optimistic and ‘for some weird reason’ not having too many moments of second-guessing.” Maybe she should have more such moments: Sex, Lies and Hollywood wrote, “Poor Katie. She doesn’t get it. She tries to explain why her ratings are so bad: It’s not about her, it’s about us.” And some of our readers agreed. “The problem may be the approach to broadcast journalism that Katie Couric embodies,” wrote Niels Aaboe of Manhattan. “Perhaps she is precisely the wrong type of onscreen presence to be delivering the news of the world we live in today.”

2. As for our “Comments” dissenters, given that many of them cited a desire to read letters at length, it seems only fair to let them have their say. “Hate the new ‘Comments’ page. It takes a full letter to develop a thought or theory. And the letters were often funny or informative. A sentence won’t do,” wrote Emilie Miller of Essex, Connecticut. A more constructive criticism came from Amy Paul in Manhattan, who wrote, “I realize you receive many comments via e-mail (as I am writing you now), letters, on blogs, etc. But couldn’t you keep the ‘Letters’ format and then write a ‘Comments’ section within that? Often the letters are as moving as the stories on which they comment, such as those printed within the weeks after your ‘Radioactive Dad [by Jon Gluck, May 28] story. Now even this section will become scattered bits of information, pieces of thoughts edited together, a blog of its own, just like all the rest of the media we consume today.” Of course, the “Comments” page was developed to address a broad range of responses (see above), just a small proportion of which are (admittedly informative and, yes, occasionally moving) letters. But we’ll do our best to showcase the thoughtful letters we continue to receive. And we look forward to your comments on these comments about “Comments.”

Couric: A Sampler

Using my crystal ball, I predict that if Hillary Clinton wins her party’s nomination for president in 2008, she will suffer a fate similar to Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News during the general election.

You took a shot, Katie. And no one could criticize you for that. You’re not going to the poorhouse anytime soon, and you still have that 60 Minutes gig to fall back on … My advice? End the experiment now, don’t drag it out any longer.

Katie’s rise to prominence has been marketed as a triumph for women everywhere. She cannot be removed without good reason. CBS has therefore embarked on a Clintonesque campaign of personal destruction … portraying Katie as unstable and bizarre.

So what’s with the Debbie Downer act? … It’s just not a good idea for someone battling for the perception of authority to go around yammering about how “surprised” and “embarrassed” she is, about how she “underestimated” circumstances and recognizes her mistakes. She is not George Bush, whose responsibility it is to admit his errors because kids are dying for them. She is in the television business, a world built on smoke and mirrors, confident bluffing, and spin, spin, spin. Couric owes no one an apology tour.

Last week, comedian Zach Galifianakis helped us curate (scouring the street and thrift stores) a collection of bad art—some of it ugly, some kitschy, some painted as if by children—and then auction it off for the charity organization New York Cares. The painting at right, Reflections From Prison, by Edward Von Struttberg III, sold for a whopping $290. “Either attendees were blind, charmed by Zach’s pithy descriptions, or disproportionately blasted by free Velvet Elvises,” joked blogger Stereogum, who admitted to being outbid on a painting of a birdlike man that went for $95.

Best One-liner
“Many thanks for Jerry Saltz’s new art reviews. They are a breath of fresh vinegar.”
Skylar Fein, New Orleans

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Comments: July 23, 2007