Posted by: Jon Fine on January 18, 2008
The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan is a talented writer whose work I often find exasperating, but her review of Ed Klein’s book on Katie Couric (which she wisely uses as an opportunity to talk about several things other than said book) in the magazine’s Jan-Feb issue is just fabulous, in its viewing of some current media and celebrity realities from a very human perspective.
(This makes it all the more annoying that all but a few paragraphs of the entire piece are firewalled. UPDATE 1/22: In a delightful bit of synchronicity, The Atlantic just took down its Web site’s subscriber-only firewall this morning.)
Among them: how a household’s relationship with tv changes in different parts of the day (the melancholy of the mother home alone after the schoolkids and breadwinner have left makes The Today Show such a welcome balm; the distracted frenzy once everyone is returning around at 6:30 makes the evening news seem invasive); why the morning shows will outlast everything else on TV; the profundity of the bond between morning show hosts and their viewers; and exactly how untransferrable that bond proved to be when you took the Today Show Katie Couric and placed her in the emotionally tamped-down confines of the anchor chair on the evening news.
And she identifies the conservatism—in media terms if not in political terms—of Couric’s apparent belief that the evening news is more powerful than her morning show. (Oprah’s not a morning host but she serves many of the same cultural needs. To take Flanagan one step further, ask yourself: who looms larger in the American psyche, Oprah or all of the nightly news anchors combined?)
I liked the writing so much I wouldn't have quoted much from it here, even if the Atlantic hadn't inexplicably and frustratingly had locked it up online. (UPDATE 1/22: Not no more!) Suffice it to say that if any of this sounds remotely interesting you should read the whole piece all the way to the lovely grace note at its end.