Gee, it must be nice to be Sally Quinn. She’s the wife of legendary, Watergate-era Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee–which seems to mean she gets to write for the Post on whatever she feels like whenever she feels like it. And she gets to sign herself in her byline as “Washington Post Staff Writer”! Even though months can go by without readers’ seeing that byline. Nice work if you can get it.
Today, suddenly, after many months of quietus, Sally’s byline is in the Post’s “Style”: section. The topic of her front-page article: Katie Couric. Oh, no, not more Katie Couric–yawn! And that’s the way Sally must feel, too, because as my eyes wandered through all 2,000 meandering words or so of Sally’s piece, I couldn’t figure out what on earth it was supposed to be about. Too bad–Sally can be a darned lively writer when she wants to.
I think that Sally was assigned the piece—I can’t believe that she volunteered to write it, because she comes off as so colossally uninterested–because she herself was once an anchorwoman, for CBS, in the morning, for a few months back…when? 1973? 1974? Switching onto Sally, who never seemed quite to get what she was supposed to be reporting about, at 7 in the morning proved to be too much for most viewers (I tried a few times), and in the twinkle of an eye, she was gone.
So some Post editor must have mused, “Hmmm, woman news anchor–let’s get Sally to write it!” The muse inspired that editor a bit late (or maybe Sally was so bored with the topic that she filed late), because by the time Sally’s piece appeared today, every other journo on earth had already filed a Katie story slugged “Woman News Anchor” and covered all the topics: “How pioneering!” “Is she too perky to take seriously?” “Will male viewers like her?” You know, you’ve read about a dozen of those stories. Sally’s piece comes just in time, too, for, as the Los Angeles Times reports, Katie’s ratings have already fallen by 45 percent–and that’s in just a week.
I can scarcely find anything in Sally’s piece worth quoting. She rambles around: an interview with Barbara Walters over Barbara’s news days way back when, the supposed “fuss” over Katie’s $15 million salary, deep thoughts about Katie’s future at CBS such as this one:
“Whether the show succeeds or fails is more her responsibility than it ever has been for any other woman.”
Then Sally reminisces about her own CBS stint:
“In a book I wrote later, ‘We’re Going to Make You a Star,’ I recounted a conversation I had with Warren Beatty. I had visited with him on my promotional tour and he warned me that the overpromotion had set me up for failure, that people would be gunning for me. Just then there was a knock on the door. It was Paul Simon, the singer. ‘This is my friend Sally Quinn,’ said Warren, ‘Yeccchhhhh,’ said Simon. Beatty just looked at me and shrugged.”
Oh, dear, yeccchhhh. That’s how I feel about your piece, Sally–and indeed about any more stories about Katie Couric, First Woman Evening News Anchor. You didn’t have to write this one, Sally. Really. Even if you are Ben Bradlee’s wife and get to use the title “Washington Post Staff Writer” for the rest of your life.