Friday, November 17, 2006

Katie Couric: Must all news be fun?

Waiting for a prescription at the drugstore, I flipped through the latest copy of Good Housekeeping, where there was a story about ABC’s new anchor, Katie Couric, erstwhile of NBC’s morning smorgasboard of features articles. Couric says one of her job demands was that the job had to be fun. Couric was mocked on The Daily Show when host Jon Stewart ran on clip of her saying that her favorite story from the recent, heated elections was about one Congressman missing three fingers from an accident.

Ye gods and little kittens, as a favorite femme coworker used to say back in my youth. Is this the fruit of the women’s movement? A woman attains one of the three coveted news anchor spots in the U.S., and she turns it into gossip? Fun, my dear, is on MTV, HGTV, Food and Travel Channel. Cheerleaders,rock stars, and Paris Hilton make fun the bottom line.

Fun is diversion. Passion is intense feeling. Joy may well up from passion; it is a feeling of oneness, flow, completion. Happiness, on the other hand, is like fun – dependent on happenstance and diversion, fleeting, and without internal ballast.

I want my news anchors to be thoughtful, insightful, well read, immensely knowledgeable about world and national affairs. I want them to see past surfaces (such as missing fingers) to what’s missing from the facts, from the inner guts of the story or the person. This requires passion for the work, not a desire to slip away into the empty diversions of fun.

When I was a young reporter, I used to tell colleagues who grumbled, “They call it work because it isn’t play. If it was fun, they wouldn’t have to pay us to do it.” I had and still have a passion for good reporting and good writing. I am passionate about being an effective teacher of communication now. Sometimes, I have fun, but I do not seek it as what I’m looking for in life. Passion and joy come from fulfilling one’s inner purpose, not seeking after mindless diversions.

Lately, I often look at news anchors and think that Ken and Barbie are bringing me the news with mindless happy talk, chronic substitution of the word irony for circumstances that are coincidence, misuse of plural pronouns for singular referents, and a general dumbing down of information. Katie Couric appears to be a nice gal who was excellent at the providing light features for the morning program. As a new anchor, she embodies the Barbie image of the news anchor, at least for me.

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