Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Katie, you were once my best friend

Change happens. And, whoa, Caitlin Flanagan can sure write (via Conor Friedersdorf):
No woman needs to storm the Bastille of nightly news, because the form has become irrelevant: Oprah has immeasurably more cultural, commercial, and political clout than Charles Gibson and Brian Williams, and no young person is ever going to make appointment TV out of a sober-minded 6:30 wrap-up of stories he or she already read online in the afternoon. Because Katie remembered the old world, the one in which the most-respected news was broadcast at the end of the day, she thought that she was taking a more powerful job. But the Today show—broadcast for four hours a day, a forum for interviews with many of the top newsmakers of the day, as well as for the kind of lifestyle-trend stories it pioneered and that have come to play such a big part in the nightly news—is a far more culturally significant program. One reason that this huge star didn’t have a tell-all biography written about her until now is that while she was at Today, no publisher wanted to antagonize her; a booking on the show was every new author’s dream. The release of Klein’s splashy book, then, is evidence not of Katie’s elevation, but of its opposite. She made the kind of mistake that women a generation younger than hers probably wouldn’t have. She spent her time gunning for a position that had been drained of its status and importance long before she got there. And what she has learned, the hard way, is that her climb to the top has been not a triumph but the act of someone who slept through a revolution.

Like Katie, I have moved on from the Today show. My boys are in school now; I write full-time. I still turn it on for a few minutes each morning, when I’m making coffee or avoiding work. It’s as pleasant as it ever was, but it will never have the urgency it held for me when Katie was there, because I will never again be the mother of small children—abruptly cast adrift from the routines of adult life, cloistered, lonely. I met Katie Couric once, and although she was very nice to me, I was disappointed. We sat on chairs under studio lights and talked, and I hope she didn’t guess what I really wanted to tell her: once, you were my closest friend.

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