Readers respond to Rebecca Traister's essay on the morning anchorwoman wars, and Sarah Karnasiewicz's interview with author Richard Louv about "nature-deficit disorder."

By Salon Staff
Published June 8, 2005 8:18PM (EDT)

[Read "Morning Gory" by Rebecca Traister.]

The reason NBC's rating are slipping in the morning is (in this viewer's opinion) because the "Today" show is almost unwatchable for anyone with a sliver of a brain. There are too many commercials. There are too few hard news stories. There is an abundance of stupid comments, and a total lack of depth -- even two-minute-segment depth. The one good piece they have is teased for what seems like hours.

Two years ago I got a TV in my bedroom and started watching TV before work, and had to stop watching the "Today" show because it was simply too irrelevant. The other stations aren't better -- they're just a haven for people who are disappointed that NBC, with all its talent and money, can't pull together a few good stories for the morning news.

-- Erin

It is interesting to note that tinkering with morning TV's female co-hosts while leaving their male co-host in peace is a trend that goes back at least as far as Jane Pauley's tenure at NBC. Remember when "Today's" ratings started dropping, and NBC decided to replace the aging Jane Pauley with younger Deborah Norville? Didn't anyone notice that Bryant Gumbel came off as kind of a jerk? Pauley and Norville both lost there -- Pauley lost her spot on "Today," but Norville became the target of the women who make up the bulk of the morning show's audience -- who felt some sympathy for the older-but-still-great Pauley as she lost her place to the "younger woman." In any case, the ploy didn't work. People were mad to lose Jane Pauley, they resented Norville, who was ultimately replaced by Katie Couric -- only then did NBC finally manage to jettison Bryant Gumbel, with much new gossip about his poor relations with Couric.

-- Sheila Peuchaud

Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that female co-hosts of morning shows are far more divisive among viewers, taking bigger positive and negative numbers than their male counterparts. Katie and Diane are more interesting to their viewers than Matt and Charles, so why should they not be more interesting to journalists?

Personally, I prefer Sawyer to Couric, for exactly the reasons that are usually hurled as negatives. She's smart and she's cold. She can be smarmy, but who in daytime TV isn't? I think her rise can be seen not as the fall of the ultra-chipper moron queen Katie, but as the triumph of a different kind of TV woman, one who can be sexy, remote and brilliant, without being unlikable.

-- Joshua

I have to admit that I like Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer as well as Matt Lauer and Charlie Gibson. Thank God, they each have their unique styles.

As a longtime "Today" fan, I can offer some suggestions and constructive criticism. First of all, they need to get rid of that third hour. It's nothing but a rehash of the first two hours and Ann Curry needs a complete makeover as well as a brush-up on interviewing skills. The yearly wedding segment is of interest only to the parties involved and their families. Enough already.

-- Pat Nichols

[Read "Do Today's Kids Have 'Nature-Deficit Disorder'?" by Sarah Karnasiewicz.]

This interview was fantastic. As a young child I was sent to a nature conservatory that offered a day camp. Later in high school I returned as a counselor. The rest of my high school and early college freedom was spent outdoors. This gave me a sense of freedom that just driving around in a car with my buddies, or hanging out at a house where the parents were away never gave me. What's been the result? A lifetime of appreciating nature. Louv is right on -- give kids the room to breathe, and a whole new world opens up. I'm an environmentalist, not by choice, but by upbringing.

-- Rob Deters

Thank you for the article about Richard Louv's book on nature-deficit disorder. Not only is our natural environment under constant threat today, but parents seem unaware of the intellectual ghetto that a nature-free, X-Box-and-soccer-practice-saturated life creates for children.

The best part of the article was Sarah Karnasiewicz's idea that time in nature provides a "kid's world," apart from the family. This was exactly the reason I always loved tenting, summer camp, or just getting away to the local creek with my friends. As kids, we spent most of our time getting micro-managed halfway to insanity by our parents and teachers, or getting smirked at every time we spoke or acted out. Parents knew enough back then, though, to let a kid go off on his bike and run some part of his own life, even if he came back scraped up once in a while.

It always struck me, the way that my friends and I -- who usually mocked each other nonstop -- would find it in ourselves to respect each other when we got away to the local park for a hike. These moments, when I finally felt that I could do what I pleased instead of following orders, were the first inklings I ever had that I might one day become a real man. Food for thought.

-- Andrew Horn

Sarah Karnasiewicz's interview with Richard Louv on nature-deficit disorder really struck a chord with me. I grew up in Pacific Grove, Calif., in the '50s and '60s. In the early years, we were surrounded by forests and meadows, and beaches and sand dunes were a short walk away. We built forts, climbed trees and played all manner of make-believe games. I watched it become just another bunch of suburban homes as I entered my teen years.

My own kids' upbringings in the '70s, '80s and '90s were much different. They grew up in Brentwood, Calif. That small city, near San Francisco, was a farm town then but quickly became the sprawling suburb it is today. My two sons never had the freedom to play in the woods and beaches that I had. As a result, they are quite different in their outlook on life than I am, and not in a positive way. I have often felt some guilt about it.

-- John Lovejoy

I can corroborate what Richard Louv writes in "The Last Child in the Woods" with my own experience. My brothers and sisters and I ran wild in the woods and fields and messed about in boats in the rivers and coves of tidewater Maryland. We were a pack of kids and dogs together. Today, I live in a townhouse community in Prince Georges County, Md. I walk with my dog twice a day in the field and woods behind my house. It is undeveloped parkland, free to all to explore, an open field, then woods with a lovely stream running through it down to the Patuxent River. In the 15 years I've lived here, I've rarely encountered any children in my wanderings, yet there are many of them living in our townhouses and in the single-family-home developments around us.

It makes me sad to think about what has become of childhood. A lot of it is due to working parents. When mothers were at home with the kids, they would send them outside to play, glad to get them out of their hair for a few hours. Kids felt free to wander, knowing Mom was there in an emergency. I don't think there is really a solution to the problem; society has changed, and it's not going back. Parents work and don't want their kids wandering at large when they're not within easy reach.

-- Janet Niederberger

I grew up in northern Michigan where there wasn't anything else to do but play outside. All of the kids in the neighborhood would play outside until the sun went down. We would walk the neighbors' dogs, climb trees, build treehouses, pick berries in the woods and even play in the junkyard. We'd ride our bikes for miles just to buy candy, wade in lakes and rivers to catch crayfish, climb around on huge rocks -- we were kids! Sure, some got hurt falling out of trees or wiping out on their bikes, but that's just part of being a kid. I agree with the author that our society has become increasingly paranoid, lawyer-happy and generally driven by fear. I feel sad for kids that don't get to experience the kind of freedom that exploring nature can give them. Parents, please try to loosen up and let your kids be kids!

-- Nicole Shiner

I read the interview with Richard Louv and spent the morning patting myself on the back. Every Saturday and Sunday morning my husband and I load up the kids and the dogs and walk the trails, rain or shine. Our forest excursions aren't just about bugs and snakes or exercise or anything like that. They have become ritual for us. Last night when I was tucking my 3-year-old in, he asked, "Is tomorrow a school day or a trail day?" Walking the trails shows us the world at work and brings us closer together.

-- Stacey Greenberg

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------