Letters to the Magazine

Katie Takes On the Evening News

I'm a 42-year-old working mom, and I've never watched the evening news on any network. But you can bet that I'll be tuning in to CBS now that Katie Couric will be its anchor ("Katie's News," April 17). CBS is lucky to have a smart CEO like Les Moonves. I predict that CBS will not only be at the top of the evening-news ratings within a year, but it will blow away the competition with Couric. Count me as a new viewer!

Deb Sanders Newcastle, Wash.

It continues to surprise and disappoint me that a female news-anchor position raises so many questions in this day and age. Haven't we become more enlightened about equality in job performance? If a male anchor had been hired would we be asking the same questions? And would it merit a cover story in NEWSWEEK? This is further proof that women still have a long way to go. Thanks to Katie Couric, Barbara Walters, Meredith Vieira and all the other females who are blazing a trail for future broadcast journalists.

Stella Senning Vernon Hills, Ill.

Katie Couric's recent announcement of her move to become anchor of the "CBS Evening News" awakened me to a sad realization: the fine line that had separated news and entertainment has finally been obliterated. The once sacrosanct world of network news that basked in the shadow of giants like Edward R. Morrow and Walter Cronkite has now finally yielded to the pressure of ratings. Showbiz trumps integrity, substance yields to style. The death of Peter Jennings and the retirements of Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Ted Koppel have heralded a coming change in the profile of network news. I had hoped the networks would fill those big shoes by selecting professionals of unchallenged integrity who may not grab audience share in an interview with J. Lo but who are capable of going eye to eye with any politician, foreign or domestic. The empty anchor chair at CBS carries with it a profound legacy. It demands a professional who can separate hard news from fluff. I had hoped CBS would do the right thing, but my fears have been realized. Thank God for PBS and NPR!

John Allen Lambertville, N.J.

Katie Couric is certainly a gifted journalist who has stumbled into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She will now earn more per day than the average Wal-Mart employee does in an entire year. I wonder if she has ever put things into perspective and seen how many Americans have to get by with so much less.

Charles McEniry Stoughton, Wis.

Katie Couric deserves the respect and dignity accorded Tom Brokaw when he made the transition from "Today" to "NBC Nightly News." The perception that a female anchor cannot survive on nightly TV news without a spousal equivalent is archaic. The presence of an experienced newswoman as a nightly news anchor on a major TV network is long overdue. CBS CEO Les Moonves is to be congratulated for having the vision to give Katie this opportunity.

Phyllis Landis Los Angeles, Calif.

I've always liked Katie Couric. I applaud qualified women stepping into new roles. I do not, however, want my news delivered by a celebrity. Katie's "cover girl" pose in your magazine diminishes her stature. She will have to take it down a few notches to win an audience, or CBS will get left behind.

Joanne LaLiberte Acton, Mass.

My wife and I both watch "today" but wonder about Katie Couric's assuming the new role of CBS's messiah. Aren't TV newspeople still "readers" of the news? Do they set policy or political or national agendas? Does a salary of $15 million give Couric a new professionalism or infallible credentials? We both like Bob Schieffer, a wise and aged commentator who has wit and knows how to use it. He doesn't talk down to us and try to educate us. He isn't heroic-acting like Dan Rather or a jet-setter like Couric, he is simply commonplace. Do we need a New York socialite from the D.C. area to tell us how to think and what to do?

David A. Kunkler Rushville, Ohio For most of the past year we've had a de facto "solo woman anchor" on ABC's "World News Tonight." Her name is Elizabeth Vargas, and she delivers the evening news with just the right balance of gravitas and cheerfulness, detachment and emotion. Peter Jennings would have been be very proud to see her exemplary work. I fail to see why all this attention, and the honor of being called the "first," is now being given to a morning personality who has yet to prove herself.

Eileen O'Sullivan Whitewater, Wis.

I saw a cover page and two stories about Katie Couric and the evening news but did not see a single mention of the quality of news coverage. With current news programs one can watch half an hour and see less than three minutes' worth of relevant information. In these challenging times, an informed public is a strength we need. I encourage Couric to use this opportunity to raise the quality of the news and provide information we need.

Nathan Delson La Jolla, Calif.

After reading the story about the Afghan who risked not only his own life but the lives of his family and friends to save an American soldier, I am appalled by the attitude of our government ("A Friend in Need," April 17). While I don't know any of the "secret" details, I do know that we should do more than just thank Mohammad Gulab. I am married to a man who gave 16 years of his life to the armed forces, and he wouldn't have done anything different than Gulab did. And I would have hoped that, had my husband been injured and left alone, someone like this man would have had the courage to help save his life and bring him back home to me. I strongly believe that our government should offer Gulab and his family some kind of asylum and help them achieve a better sense of security. Your story is one of the best I have read in a very long time. Hats off to the writers.

Karen Y. Hutchins via internet

The ungrateful--even treacherous--treatment of Afghan hero Mohammad Gulab by the U.S. government, the military and the Navy SEAL he rescued will come back to haunt us the next time an allied serviceman finds himself in a perilous, isolated situation like that of the SEAL. Every American involved--including the SEAL who was saved, then washed his hands of the village that saved him--should be ashamed of himself. I know I am. This inaction on the part of those involved is nothing short of despicable and shall forever be a stain on their honor.

Terry Valentine Pahrump, Nev.

Jonathan Alter is the first national commentator who has discovered Mitt Romney ("A Rising Star, Out of the Blue," April 17). I watched a speech by Romney on C-Span a few months ago and was astonished by his clear message, confident proposals and communication skills. I do not believe his appeal nor his liabilities will be Massachusetts' health-care plan, his Mormonism or the usual Blue State/Red State questions. His appeal will prove to be his charm, quickness of mind and ability to communicate. I have not observed his wit or humor, and hope that he is comfortable trading quips with the press. The Republican Party will be well served if it is smart enough to nominate Romney in 2008.

Charles Torkko Denver, Colo.

Jonathan Alter's puff piece on Mitt Romney says he's been "skillful at negotiating" gay marriage. How exactly? Romney has been vehemently against equal rights for gay people. He supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and even opposes civil unions. One day these attitudes will be seen by most people for what they are: bigoted.

Tony Valenzuela via internet

Jonathan Alter says that the new Massachusetts law requiring that all state residents have health insurance was just like states' mandating that all car owners have car insurance. Untrue. The only car insurance that is required by law is liability, not collision or car-maintenance insurance. The new Massachusetts law, which says low-income people must have a health plan with first-dollar coverage (no deductibles), is like passing a law that every car owner must have first-dollar car insurance to cover every oil change and tuneup. Such a law would certainly add to the cost of caring for your car. Universal health coverage is a laudable goal, but making people pay for all their health care with insurance is bound to make health care more costly and limit the personal choices we can make about our care.

Betsy McCaughey Former Lt. Governor of New York State New York, N.Y.

By sheer coincidence, I had been reading letters written to me by my husband during World War II when the April 17 issue of NEWSWEEK arrived. My heart went out to William Shaw ("We Had the Love, But I Long for the Letters," my turn), as letters written so long ago are my most cherished link to 63 years of a very happy marriage, ending with my husband's recent death. Reading them is like hearing him speak to me and is my only source of defense against what can often seem like an overwhelming loneliness.

Glynne S. Ihms Laramie, Wyo.

I started writing letters to my children because my parents, who were Holocaust survivors, never became sufficiently literate in English to write letters to me. I increased my letters' frequency when my daughter showed me that she kept each and every one of them in what she called her "confidence file." Now, as my writing skills begin to pale in comparison with my children's, I find myself savoring and rereading each and every one of their letters to me. I call this treasure trove my "purpose-in-life file."

Isaac Steven Herschkopf New York, N.Y.

I certainly feel for William Shaw and his desire to re-experience his loved one through her words. My situation is just the opposite--I am surrounded by boxes and boxes of family letters and diaries going back eight generations, which I have been copying into my computer chronologically (I'm now up to 1863!). What had been names to me before are now taking shape as distinct personalities--distinguished not only by what they say, but the expression of their handwriting and their choice of words and style of writing. What a difference in the handwriting of my great-great-grandmother when she was in the courtship phase compared with her very brief note as a new mother grappling with a crying baby. And then there are those tantalizing letters with certain parts excised--who thought the expression too shocking to be read by future eyes? I know what Shaw is missing, and it is valuable indeed.

A. A. Lloyd Asheville, N.C.

William Shaw really touched a nerve with his my turn essay. I enjoy writing notes each month to people who are ill, have various types of personal problems or needs, or may just need a friend. But it had never occurred to me to write notes or letters to my husband of almost 37 years. After reading Shaw's words, I thought, "What a wonderful idea!" You can be sure that, from now on, I will take a few extra minutes each month to write a note or letter to my husband. Who could be more important? Thanks, Mr. Shaw.

Brenda Owen Johnston Raleigh, N.C.

Your good coverage of the gospel of Judas puts the brakes on our readiness to grasp at any newly discovered ancient text that happens to mention Jesus as a reason to rewrite his whole history ("Sealed With a Kiss," April 17). As David Gates reminds us, the Gospel of Judas was written awfully late to play any such revisionist role. Don't get me wrong--I'll be interested to eventually read the Gospel of Judas--but as a study of a later variant on the earlier form of Christianity which was based on the much older canonical Gospels, not as a new source for what really happened during the days leading to Jesus' crucifixion.

Brian Kay Adjunct Faculty, Fuller Theological Seminary San Luis Obispo, Calif.

I am Jewish and grew up hearing that Judas was a "Christ-killing Jew." But even as a child I thought that was ridiculous. If Jesus came to Earth to die for the sins of others, then Judas (and the Jews?) did what needed to be done. Had Jesus not died he would not have fulfilled his mission and Christians would still be responsible for their own sins. Too bad that millions of Jews have died at the hands of "avenging" Christians before this Gospel was found.

Tobi Ruth Love Thousand Oaks, calif.

Reading "Sealed With a Kiss" has not changed my mind about Judas. He was an accuser, a critic, a rebel, a thief and a traitor as portrayed in the four Gospels. While the Gospel of Judas will cast this abhorrent character in an honorable role through his purpose of fulfilling Christ's mission, I find even the text insulting and a reproach by misrepresenting the apostolic teachings. In past centuries, Judas' personality has served as a warning to all professed Christians who betray sacred trusts for covetousness. I still hold to that position.