Cokie Roberts: Bad Beyond Sports Analogies

Slate‘s Jack Shafer (5/1/09) has had his fill of NPR senior news analyst Cokie Roberts’ “four minutes of on-air blather about politics, the economy and world events with whichever unlucky Morning Edition host has drawn the short straw” on Mondays. Shafer writes of how, “drained of controversy and conflict, the Cokie minutes provide perfect editorial balance if your idea of balance is zero”:

I can think of no comparably sized media space that’s as void of original insight and information as Roberts’. Her segments, though billed as “analysis” by NPR, do little but speed-graze the headlines and add a few grace notes. If you’re vaguely conversant with current events, you’re already cruising at Roberts’ velocity. Roberts doesn’t just voice the conventional wisdom; she is the conventional wisdom.

Initially wanting to “blame NPR for the segment’s wretchedness or Morning Edition hosts Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep for pitching her nothing but giant, slo-mo softballs,” Shafer then reconsiders: “No, softball isn’t the right sports analogy, if only because Roberts never puts wood on the questions. The segment really unfolds like a brief set of air tennis, with Roberts and a host play-acting a vigorous volley”–which might in some sense be lucky for listeners, considering what comes out when Roberts actually tries to say something….