Katie Couric is Engaging

This Howard Kurtz piece on the totally amazing and serious Katie Couric is getting some attention for this unfortunate passage:

. . . Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls “this great unwashed middle of the country” in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.

Therein lies a key reason why Couric has sometimes struggled in her current job. She’s always seemed constrained by the rigid, 22-minute format, a far cry from her freewheeling Today performances over a decade and a half. So she has devised ways to slip out of her $15 million-a-year prison—launching a Web show, engaging on Twitter, and getting out in the field.

Well. If you can name the crime that will get me committed to a $15-million-a-year-prison, I will endeavor to commit it posthaste. But perhaps the reason she’s struggled is contained in her quote: the middle of the country suspects she regards them as hobnailed dirt-smeared dullards. It fits with the idea that real America – smart, credentialed, urban, sophisticated – exists in a thin crust on either coast, with the rest of the country a parenthetical insert in the national narrative. Unwashed. Criminey.

No, amend that. “Real America,” according to the coastal cultural viziers, is middle America, and that’s the problem. “Better America” is what you get in New York. But only between certain cross-streets.

(By the way, the line “the great unwashed” came from Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the Victorian writer who also gave us the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.”)

  1. Pseudodionysius

    It was the best of slimes; it was the worst of slimes….

  2. Whiskey Sam

    Since when are Philly, Boston, and Jersey the middle of the country?

  3. Michael Tee
    James Lileks:

    By the way, the line “the great unwashed” came from Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the Victorian writer who also gave us the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.”) ·

    I thought Snoopy gave us the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.”

  4. Peter Hintz

    This article about Katie Couric would be well placed in The Onion, perhaps under the headline: “Scientific Breakthrough: Katie Couric discovers unwashed territory west of the Hudson via Twitter” Or, better, the piece should somehow be incorporated into E.J. Hill’s “Are you elite?” quiz.

  5. River

    Doesn’t Couric’s statement remind you of Harry Reid’s revealing opinion of Americans when he referred to “…the smell of the tourists on a hot day in Washington”? The best thing we can do with elites is encourage them to render opinions.

    Here’s my favorite Bullwer-Lytton: “The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant for those who hadn’t heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the the little period of time during the actual scream itself when your ears might have been hearing it but your brain wasn’t reacting yet to let you know.” – Patricia E. Presutti, 1987 winner.
  6. flownover
    James Lileks: Adam, I’ve found the people of New York to be as clean, or not, as anyone else. I will note that the Bronx has a neighborhood called “Throggs Neck,” which sounds like something you get when soap is infrequently applied. · Oct 26 at 12:17pm

    As a child, well until 22 or so, my ma would stand me in the sink and scrub me with a brillo pad so I could be as clean as the folks in Manhattan. Having my skin scraped off right there in ma’s kitchen will stay with me forever . I called it “Hell’s Kitchen” , guess it stuck.

  7. Palaeologus

    “Therein lies a key reason why Couric has sometimes struggled in her current job. She’s always seemed constrained by the rigid, 22-minute format, a far cry from her freewheeling Today performances”

    Sounds like Kurtz is channeling Dave Axelrod. The problem, you see, isn’t that few care for what she has to say, it’s that she needs to say it in different settings at greater length.

    Does Kurtz think Obama’s “more cowbell” approach worked? And what do these people have against editors?

  8. Steve MacDonald

    Beyond a dazzling display of ignorance regarding geography, she shows amazing balance in visiting super blue areas in order to gain perspective.

    If this were written as fiction it would be rejected by readers as unbelievable.

  9. Frozen Chosen

    $15 mil huh? Comes out to about $10k per viewer by my reckoning. CBS news’ return on investment is quite stimulus-like, no?

  10. Publius

    You know you’re a hopeless elitist when you consider visiting Boston as a way to mingle with the slobbering masses.

  11. dittoheadadt
    James Lileks: Adam, I’ve found the people of New York to be as clean, or not, as anyone else. I will note that the Bronx has a neighborhood called “Throggs Neck,” which sounds like something you get when soap is infrequently applied. · Oct 26 at 12:17pm

    James, my parents grew up in Throggs Neck in the 40s and 50s. Pop actually graduated from Maritime College just over the Throggs Neck Bridge (talk about the unwashed…a military guy!). I can report that the 2 of them will be among the Great Unwashed next Tuesday who will be throwing the Great Washed out with the bathwater.

  12. Cas Balicki
    George Savage

    Ward Good: Don Imus has characterized her best “Kidding, affectionate, she’s a cute little rodent, more like a Minnie Mouse, not a sewer rat in New York. By the way, that could have gone right by, the little rodent at CBS. You didn’t have to call attention to it.” · Oct 26 at 12:35pm

    Speaking of rodents, and apropos of James’s reference to “It was a dark and stormy night,” I give you the 2010 winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, Molly Ringle:

    For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss–a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.

    Oct 26 at 12:47pm

    What! No musckrat love? Where’s the Captain?

  13. Patrick Shanahan

    After reading this, I felt the need to take a shower. So now I am relatively washed.

    But I remain confused. Is she saying that residents of Philly and Chicago are unwashed (in which case, I’m good), or just displaying profound ignorance over what “The middle of the country” actually means? Or is the algorithm that the farther away from Manhattan one resides, the more likely one will have mushrooms growing out of one’s ears? Ears growing on a big, dense, ignorant skull?

    I’m serious, she confuses me! On the other hand, I’m guessing she confuses herself even more.

  14. Patrick Shanahan

    By the way, Publius, I’m a Massachusetts boy. Boston is full of slobbering masses. Ever been to Dorchester?

  15. Chris O.

    What a joke. No doubt on her stops she’ll hear many sentiments she might have heard outside the CBS News studios in New York. She’ll be left wondering why a number of candidates won when no one she met planned to vote for them (to paraphrase Ms. Kael).

  16. Sisyphus

     

    Publius: You know you’re a hopeless elitist when you consider visiting Boston as a way to mingle with the slobbering masses. · Oct 26 at 4:51pm

    What? You never heard of the Boston Commons?

  17. tabula rasa
    George Savage: Speaking of rodents, and apropos of James’s reference to “It was a dark and stormy night,” I give you the 2010 winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, Molly Ringle:

    For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss–a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.

    Oct 26 at 12:47pm

    How about this winner in the 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Detective Category: ”

    “She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida – the pink ones, not the white ones – except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn’t wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren’t. ”

  18. Adam Freedman
    C

    James, I have to defend Katie. I grew up in Chicago. When I moved to New York City years ago, what struck me was how clean everyone was. If you’ve been here I’m sure you know what I mean. It was only then that I realized how lucky I was to have escaped the “unwashed middle” of this country.

  19. Trace
    Whiskey Sam: Since when are Philly, Boston, and Jersey the middle of the country? · Oct 26 at 11:58am

    Or even Chicago. So she’s going to travel to large, urban areas to get a fresh perspective? Maybe she’s confused the difference between accent and perspective…

  20. r r

    You know, James, I don’t mind what she said. Let her report back to her cronies on the east and left coast, “have you heard, there’s unwashed MASSES there in the middle, quite unwashed, quite.” That way, she and all of her clown-bag friends stay the hell out of my state and the surrounding states. Let them think what they will just so long as they don’t come anywhere near me….

    I heard there’s monsters out there in the middle, dragons too. Better keep away coasters, just to be safe. Quite quite, rather yes.

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