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Katie’s choice




Susan Estrich

Susan Estrich

By SUSAN ESTRICH

The knives are out for Katie Couric. Again. This time, the focus is her just-commenced trip to Iraq and Syria, where she will anchor the evening news and file special reports.

How dare she?

A network news anchor heading to the scene of the biggest story in the world? Imagine: someone in her business trying to get big interviews and score high ratings!

Since when is that journalism?

And besides, doesn’t she realize that single mothers have no place in a war zone?

I kid you not. I wish I were.

The Concerned Women for America were out of the box before Katie was on the plane. One Janice Crouse, Ph.D., senior fellow of the Concerned Women’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, was on Fox News last week excoriating the anchor for leaving her children behind and actually risking her life to do her job. They could be orphans! All in the name of her ambition.

Terming the trip “a clear act of desperation,” former Bush administration speechwriter and Asbury College professor and debate coach Crouse opined, “Here she is, going off to Iraq, paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to the fact that her children have already lost one parent, and here she is, putting herself in harm’s way.” Couric, according to Crouse, must have “a warped perspective,” and Crouse found it “very sad” seeing “Katie having her priorities so determined by her ambition rather than for her children’s welfare.”

The fact is that for a few days (and with more bodyguards by a mile), Katie Couric is putting herself in the same position that hundreds of other journalists find themselves in for years on end – many of them parents, too, not to mention the single mothers who serve our country in the military.

Who does Katie think she is? A journalist? An actual reporter? Someone who can ask questions and get answers, and focus attention on something important?

Not according to columnist David Hinckley, writing in the New York Daily News. Couric isn’t a journalist, he opines, but (perish the thought) “a celebrity.”

According to Hinckley, “the motivation for any news decision, presumably, is to inform its audience, and perhaps this one will. Don’t be surprised if it tells us more about how Katie Couric looks in fatigues than what we can salvage from the quicksand of Iraq.”

Of course, Hillary Clinton and John McCain and George Bush and Dick Cheney are celebrities, too. Maybe they shouldn’t go to Iraq, either. And Hinckley, I’m sure, is not in the business of selling papers by trashing people/ women more famous than he. It just looks that way.

Anytime a mother does something risky, whether it’s joining the military, climbing Mount Everest or traveling on the job, the naysayers are all over her, asking how she could possibly do such a terrible thing to her children.

Of course, these questions are never asked of men. And in my experience, most of the people doing the naysaying have no clue in the world what it’s like to try to balance work and family, to be true to your roles as a professional, a woman and a mother. (Sorry, Dr. Crouse, but for all the talk of family values on your website, I didn’t see any reference to any little Crouses in your bio – just a slew of testaments to your ambition).

And that’s not surprising: Those of us who have done our best to raise kids while working understand that there are no “perfect” answers, except that everyone has to make her own decisions, and no one has the right to second-guess them.

The media get criticized all the time, with reason, for catering to our basest taste – for feeding us Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan instead of more “important,” real news. I don’t know if Katie Couric will get more interviews or ask better questions than Lara Logan, CBS’ Iraq correspondent, would. But I do know that her presence there, not to mention the ridiculous controversy it has engendered, will draw more attention to the war, its prospects and its costs. Whether it will also bring higher ratings remains to be seen. Whether it is worth the risk, however, is Katie’s decision, not ours, to make.

Travel safe, sister. ©2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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