Tuned In

Anchors Away, pt. 1: Katie's First

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When Barack Obama absconded to the Middle East and Europe, taking America’s entire broadcast network-news industry with him, one question was whether he would get an unbalanced amount of coverage compared with John McCain, or an unbalanced amount of scrutiny. As Katie Couric got the first crack at an overseas interview last night on CBS, the answer was: a little bit of both.

Couric actually interviewed not only Obama but, by satellite, McCain as well. The newscast spent considerably more time with Obama, airing two face-to-face interview segments and showing footage of him in various telegenic settings, while his opponent had to make do with a stiff remote sit-down. But Couric’s questioning of Obama—perhaps in a sign that all the charges of unfairness have gotten in the news divisions’ collective heads—was more adversarial. She pressed him repeatedly on the surge in her first interview segment; she also interviewed McCain on Iraq, but her questions boiled down to—and I’m paraphrasing—(1) Why is Sen. Obama wrong? and (2) Would you care to rephrase that?

Couric called it “a kind of long-distance debate,” but it was one without a rebuttal. Not that that’s necessarily unfair: if Obama’s going to invite the cameras for a weeklong journey, he should expect greater scrutiny along with the footage of him sinking three-pointers. [Update: I should add that the line of questioning with McCain was not surprising, given that he’s been directly attacking Obama on Iraq lately—not that either candidate’s message machine has to drive the interview questions.] (Conversely, McCain got to test what happens when a gaffe falls in the forest without a phalanx of microphones to hear it. Imagine if Obama had talked about the “Iraq-Pakistan border” while he was in Iraq.)

On a separate but related note, The Daily Show seems to be fixing on its answer to the how-to-make-fun-of-Barack-Obama question. Is he Sinbad, or is he Jesus?