C’mon Howie. Today, the Washington Post’s media columnist, Howard Kurtz, turns in 1000 words on Martha Raddatz, ABC’s laudable White House correspondent.
Kurtz is right to point out her chops. But his take drips with a you-go-girl tone that—like eighties powersuits with sewn-in shoulder-pads—should be left in the back of the closet.
We learn that in between all that globetrotting, she still manages to come home and cook dinner for the son and hubby. White House Press Secretary (and confirmed female) Dana Perino gives her props for her “touching” support of the sisterhood.
Raddatz’s trials and travails with clothing comes up three—three!—times: when abroad, does she prefer cammos or muftis? Long blonde hair or hijab? What funny thing happened after her luggage was lost en route to Anbar? Reader, thanks to Kurtz, you will wonder no longer.
Kurtz quotes ABC anchor Charles Gibson: “She’s just gritty, without sacrificing any femininity She brings a sensibility and sensitivity to these [Middle East] issues that is tough for a male correspondent to match.” Paging Jane Austen!
The closing anecdote comes from a diplomatic reception with Admiral William Fallon, chief of Central Command. Raddatz, wallflower no more, bravely broke gender barriers by, as Kurtz puts it, moving “away from the women to talk to decision-makers.” (God forbid a woman sneak-in among the ranks of diplomatic “decision-makers”—psst, don’t tell Maddy or Condi.)
“You want to be an honorary man for the evening,” Kurtz quotes Fallon.
Gag. I don’t doubt that Gibson and Fallon gave these dinosaur quotes. But Kurtz either set out to write a piece with a hackneyed gender lens, or after getting the quotes missed the real story: that no matter how good a female reporter is, she’s still a woman first and a journalist second.
Let’s agree to put the focus where it matters—on Raddatz’s admirable skill as a reporter—and not on the ancillary fact that, yes Virginia, she’s a woman.Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.