March 28, 2007

C BS Does Chapel Hill


Why did this screen shot suddenly appear in the YahooNews John Edwards newswire thread yesterday?  Could it have something to do with that autistic excuse for an interview Katie Couric conducted with the Edwards this past weekend?

As the photo selected by CBS, itself, to lead its story of the interview, its a fair piece of data with which to symbolize the encounter.

As I read it, Mrs. Edwards’ shoulders are tensed and she looks slightly strained and on-the-spot, while locked in a confrontational gaze with Couric.  John Edwards, his eyes trained hard on the interviewer, his characteristic smile upside down and his head slightly cocked (in a gesture that mirrors his wife’s), looks doubting and dubious as well.

As for Couric, she is positioned in the middle of a vestibule or hallway (they’re in Las Vegas, perhaps just inside a suite?) so that the Edwards, close to the wall, have limited room for movement.  It’s hard to read Couric’s expression, but I wouldn’t call it friendly.  Instead, it’s more of a troubled look, her hands positioned as if pressing forward and working away at something.

Given the firestorm of criticism over the interview, the network is now in full damage control mode.  The CBSnews blog, for instance, posts a statement from Edwards saying he felt the couple was treated fairly.  (But then, what else would you expect the presidential candidate to say?)  At the same time, the blog links to a codependent post at Columbia Journalism Review reframing Couric’s MSM-standard “shame game” approach to the technique of “playing devil’s advocate.”  (Okay, so the couple — having just discovered Elizabeth Edwards is terminal — suddenly requires a network anchor, desperate for ratings, to take apart their defenses.)

Of course, the cheapest way to respond — from their faux blog — is just to blame the ‘sphere.  In this slap, National Correspondent Bryon Pitts resorts to the “pajamas” strategy, writing:

“…Katie wasn’t simply asking questions stacked on a sheet of paper, but asking questions that she once had to ask herself as her husband battled cancer. Since the interview aired I’ve run into sky cabs, cabbies, housekeepers, and a host of others all talking about “Katie’s interview.” (Granted these aren’t people who ‘blog’ all day, they actually work outside.) Some thought she was right on, others thought she was way off….”

(That’s quite an act of denial, using Couric’s loss of her own husband as an excuse, then leaving the final judgement about her attitude to the common man, considering the furious reactions to the piece registered by Couric’s own readers on the 60 Minutes site.)

My favorite blogospheric reaction, by the way, was this take by Taylor Marsh.  My ears are still burning.

Image: AP Photo/CBS . March 25, 2007. Las Vegas.  via YahooNews.  Note: image was slightly enlarged and sharpened by The BAG.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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