Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for February 16th, 2014

NBC’s Christin Cooper Pushes Bode Miller to Tears After Bronze Medal Win

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Every time I think I’ve seen it all when it comes to the Sochi Olympic Games, something happens to make me change my mind.

In Sunday’s Super-G Olympic ski race, American Bode Miller won the bronze medal (actually tying with Canadian Jan Hudec) behind fellow American Andrew Weibrecht and gold-medal winning Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. In doing so, the thirty-six-year-old Miller became the oldest Olympic medalist in skiing history, and has now won six Olympic medals — one gold, three silvers, and two bronzes.

However, NBC reporter Christin Cooper, herself a past Olympic medal winner in skiing (silver in 1984 in the Giant Slalom), pushed Miller way too far in an interview aired in prime-time television an hour or so ago. The interview has been transcribed by Yahoo’s Fourth-Place Medal column; here’s Cooper’s first question and Miller’s first answer:

Cooper: Bode, such an extraordinary accomplishment, at your age, after a turbulent year, coming back from knee surgery, to get this medal today, put it in perspective. How much does this mean to you?

Miller: I mean it’s incredible. I always feel like I’m capable of winning medals but as we’ve seen this Olympics it’s not that easy. To be on the podium, this was a really big day for me. Emotionally, I had a lot riding on it. Even though I really didn’t ski my best, I’m just super super happy.

This is a perfectly reasonable question, and a good answer by Miller. No problems here.

Next was Cooper’s second question:

Cooper: For a guy who says that medals don’t really matter, that they aren’t the thing, you’ve amassed quite a collection. What does this one mean to you in terms of all the others.

Miller: This was a little different. You know with my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sensed it. This one is different.

This, again, is a reasonable question and a good answer by Miller. He was starting to tear up at this point, though, and most interviewers would’ve backed off and thanked him for his time.

For whatever reason, Cooper did not do this.

Here’s Cooper’s third question and Miller’s third answer:

Cooper: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?

Miller: Um, I mean, a lot. Obviously just a long struggle coming in here. It’s just a tough year.

This wasn’t a terrible question, but it wasn’t good because Miller was already in distress. Miller again gave a credible answer, but he teared up and was having a lot of distress in the process.

Again, most interviewers would’ve backed off. But again, Cooper did not do this.

Instead, here was Cooper’s fourth question and Miller’s abortive fourth answer:

Cooper: I know you wanted to be here with Chelly, really experiencing these games. How much does this mean to you to come up with this great performance for him? And was it for him?

Miller: I don’t know if it’s really for him but I wanted to come here and, I dunno, make myself proud, but … (trails off)

Here is when Cooper made a big mistake. She mentioned Chelone Miller, Bode’s brother, by name — Chelone was only 29 when he passed away in 2013 of a seizure, and was considered a possibility to make the Sochi Olympics in snowboarding until the end of his life.

Then Cooper made an even bigger mistake — she asked a fifth and final question:

Cooper: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?

Miller: (breaks down and cries, Cooper puts an arm on him)

Now, this was just way out of line. Miller had answered the question already, as best he could, at least twice, and was obviously emotional. (Cooper even said this, earlier, so she was aware of it.) His brother has been dead for less than a year, for pity’s sake (see this story about Chelone Miller’s passing if you don’t believe me). The wound is still fresh, and Miller was showing the strain after Cooper’s second question.

But she didn’t back off.

As a journalist — no matter how unemployed I may be at the moment — I can tell you right now that Cooper’s behavior was completely wrong. She should’ve backed off after the second question and not asked the third, but once she did ask the third and saw that Miller was so emotional, she should definitely have backed off then.

That she instead chose to ask the fourth and fifth questions after he was already extremely upset for a completely understandable reason made absolutely no sense.

Fortunately, I’m not the only person out there who feels this way, either, as Yahoo’s Fourth-Place Medal column written by Mike Oz (about Olympic events) has also taken Cooper to task. Here’s a bit of that:

Reporters have to ask tough questions. It’s part of being a journalist. One of the hardest parts of the job — and one of the toughest nuances to learn — is knowing when enough is enough in an emotional situation. Cooper, it’s worth nothing, was a skier before getting a TV gig with NBC, not a lifelong journalist

Maybe when she looks back at the tape on this, she’ll realize that one question about Miller’s brother was enough — perhaps two would have been OK. But the third one, the one that broke Miller down into a ball of emotion, came off as, at best, insensitive and, at worst, cheap.

All I can say is, I sincerely hope so.

Because what Christin Cooper did wasn’t just poor journalism and wasn’t just insensitive.

It was plain, flat wrong on every level. Period.

Just Reviewed Four Romances at SBR

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Folks, it had been a while since I did a Romance Saturday review over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), I thought I’d do more than one.

This time, I reviewed four.

And, because I was feeling a little puckish, I decided to call it a Romance Saturday “Four-Play.” (Pardon the pun. Or don’t. I’m not going to change it, so there. Nyah.)

The best of the lot beyond a shadow of a doubt is Rosemary Edghill’s excellent time-travel romance MET BY MOONLIGHT, recently re-released as an independent e-book. It is outstanding in just about every way there is, but if you are of the pagan persuasion, you probably will like it even better.  (Even if you aren’t, though, you should adore this book. Truly.)

I also reviewed a nice debut Regency by Giselle Marks, THE FENCING MASTER’S DAUGHTER. I agonized over this one, as there are some glaring weaknesses mixed in with some strong strengths, but ultimately decided that the couple of big laughs and the excellent historicity was enough to give it a B.

As THE FENCING MASTER’S DAUGHTER would be much better if Ms. Marks had somehow won access to a top-notch editor, I had to say that. (I also said whoever edited for her did a competent job. He or she presented the romance nicely, and it was grammatical and with few typos. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not as much work as most of the really good editors I’ve been around would do if they’d seen a manuscript like this one land on their desks.)

Then I was presented with two romances by Sherry Thomas, one a YA fantasy romance called THE BURNING SKY and the other a 19th Century English historical romance, THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON. I really like Ms. Thomas’s writing style, and think she’s one of the best younger romance novelists around (by “younger” in this context, I mean “under forty”).

I liked THE BURNING SKY, but did not love it. I thought it had some nice touches, believed in the romance between the two principals, and the magical system was acceptable to better. I didn’t find it ground-breaking, though, as some reviews have called it, mostly because Mercedes Lackey has been doing books about Elemental Magic for years — also set in England, many of them set in late 19th Century England at that — and while Lackey’s Elemental mages aren’t exactly like Thomas’s, they’re close enough for government work.

As for THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON . . . how can I say that I was completely underwhelmed without being a complete and utter boor? (Oops, I just said it anyway.)

Look. Ms. Thomas writes well, so even a C-level romance (which is exactly what I adjudged THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON to be) is probably worth your time, especially if you’ve read nothing else by her before.

But considering the level of her other books — her excellent debut, PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, her excellent war romance, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, or even the recent TEMPTING THE BRIDE — this just was not up to Ms. Thomas’s standards. At all.

I’ve had to give other writers whose work I generally find to be exceptional C-ratings before, and probably will again. Most of the time, I try not to agonize over this, especially if the novelist in question has put out a number of books (by my count, Ms. Thomas has now put out eight full-length romance novels, one fantasy romance novel, and at least one novella, so she’s put out ten books). I figure that someone with a track record, as Ms. Thomas now has, should have to be held to a higher standard than someone who’s just starting out — because really, don’t you want to top yourself?

That’s why I admire the work of Ms. Edghill so much, and Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, too. Those two writers do not settle, ever. They put out top-notch efforts, their books are memorable and lively, and even something that I don’t find to be quite at an A-minus or better is still well worth my time.

More to the point, I never forget what those two write about. Never.

Whereas with THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON, I put the book down for a week and a half. I forgot everything about it. I had to go back and re-read, then I saw a few really good, sparkling passages that reminded me of how good Ms. Thomas can be when she puts her mind to it — and a bunch of passages where the editing was not there (something rare in a mass-market romance, where the editing is usually outstanding), or the focus was not there, or something just was a bit off.

Worse yet, even in THE BURNING SKY, I put the book down for a week and a half and wasn’t really inclined to finish it excepting I’d already said I’d review the thing. I was pleasantly surprised by it, as it picked up considerably after a very slow start, and I think Ms. Thomas shows promise as a fantasy novelist.

That’s the main reason why the latter book got a B from me, while the first one only received a C. A book that’s uneven, poorly edited, and unfocused — no matter how good the writing is at its best — can only garner a C.

But a book that gets significantly better as time goes on, and holds my interest despite putting it down for a week-plus at a lull, can still get a B or maybe even better, depending.

Look, folks. My own novel isn’t yet out. I know people could be coming after me with pitchforks, for all I know, because I’m willing to tell it like it is when it comes to some of my otherwise-favorite novelists.

I also know that sometimes the demands of contemporary publishing schedules means that the quality of books will sometimes be lacking.

My view is simple: Ms. Thomas can ascend to the same level of storytelling as seen by Ms. Kimbriel and Ms. Edghill, but Ms. Thomas needs to demand more. Whether she needs to get her agent to buy her more time to turn something in so she can polish it up, whether she needs to just write fantasy romances for the time being as that seems to be where her heart is, I don’t know — but whatever it is, she needs to do that.

I don’t care how many places, some of which are very well-known, give these last two books high ratings or say that they’re up to the standards of Ms. Thomas’s other books. The plain and simple fact of the matter is, they aren’t.

Anyway, this is why I wrote these particular reviews — my “after-action report,” as it were.  I hope you found it of interest.

Now I’d best get back to editing, as I have an author eagerly awaiting my latest comments . . . and who am I to make him wait?