Items you will need in order to read The Hill‘s recent story on Chef Geoff Tracy and his wife, CBS Chief White House Correspondent Norah O’Donnell: A pillow (to take periodic naps), a brick wall (to bang your head against) and a red pen (for rewriting purposes).
The journey begins with a picture on the front page of the Washington Scene section. Though the story is about the couple, the picture shows Tracy with the V.P.’s wife, Jill Biden. No, O’Donnell’s husband hasn’t run away with the second lady. The full picture inside shows the couple and their children posing with V.P. Biden and his wife.
We’re going to keep this simple since the story itself is a torture chamber.
Five Ways the Story Unnecessarily Cozies to the Couple
1. Affection abounds. The writer begins with Tracy (with his hidden warm blue eyes) kissing his wife. Shortly thereafter we must endure Norah playfully tapping her husband on the shoulder after a particularly unfunny canned joke about how long they’ve been married. “Yeah, thank God he bought me diamond earrings for our anniversary,” O’Donnell said, hitting Tracy on the shoulder playfully. (Did they choreograph this before the interview?)
2. Soundbites. A reporter is supposed to steer interviewees away from quotes that make readers want to crawl into a hole. Instead, the piece reads as though author Kate Oczypok let her interviewees sit down and write it, not the other way around. Example: Norah: “CBS came to me and offered me an incredible position so few women have held. I’ll have a front row seat to history and be the principle substitute for Face the Nation and contribute to 60 Minutes—It’s my dream.” (No questions about the poor treatment of women in the business. Not even a single question about whether Norah has ever experienced sexism in the course of her career.)
3. Missed opportunities. In two random lines, we learn that O’Donnell, when she was little, used to pretend to be Barbara Walters and that she wanted to be the female Tim Russert. We get zero details. Really? You don’t even ask Norah how she distinguishes between being a man versus a woman or if she looked in the mirror and did a Wawa imitation? You don’t ask her to do one now? And Russert — is this really her eventual goal? How would she critique the current NBC “MTP” hosted by David Gregory? The lack of tough questions throughout this puffy piece is daunting.
4. Pointless sucking up. Norah “hates the idea that women can’t have a high-powered job and be a mother.” She says, “It’s absolutely archaic.” “…And sexist,” Tracy added. (Yes, they are a modern couple trying to make the life-work balance work. There’s nothing new or interesting about this. And what a relief to see that Geoff also thinks sexism is “archaic.”)
5. Soundbites II. This one made us cringe. “Norah’s the national and international star and I’m just the local mayor, unelected of course,” Tracy joked. “In all seriousness, I’m very fortunate that I get to entertain people on a daily basis.”
Remember that brick wall we asked you to bring? Time to use it unless you prefer the pillow.
Read the complete monstrosity here.