- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

Hard-core news has a way of separating the women from the girls and it's always been that way.

In fact, many dailies used to have what was called women's pages entire sections of the newspaper where fashion, society gossip and lifestyle chatter (and female journalists) ruled. Meanwhile, men covered the news the White House, war, state and local governments and crime, including stories involving men who slaughtered their families.

My how times have changed. Or have they?

It is very likely that the competency hearing in the highly publicized case of Andrea Pia Yates will end today. Despite all the events that have occurred since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, I'm sure you recall the Yates case. She is the Texas housewife charged with methodically drowning that is to say, one-by-one her five children. The judge, Belinda Hill, seated the 11-women, one-man jury on Tuesday and testimony began Wednesday.

I was going to weigh in on the Yates case in last week's column, give you my two-cents about whether she is competent (which she is) as well as my thoughts on the Texas women libbers rallying to her defense (which seems to distract from more important issues). But the horrific events dictated I do otherwise.

Besides, back in the "old days," there were no libbers who would have spoken up in Mrs. Yates' defense. And most certainly no woman columnist would have dared to write a woe-is-Andrea piece.

As for the recent acts of war, columnists and commentators in newspapers across America had lots to say, and speak their minds they did. Some leaned toward the insignificant, including a former co-worker of mine the undulating Maureen Dowd. In her first column in the New York Times following the attacks, Miss Dowd's main concerns were where was President Bush and why wasn't he out and about, perhaps on the South Lawn of the White House, reassuring her that all is well.

Not to worry, presidential historian and author David McCullough set the record straight. "All presidents do what they're told on matters of security," he informed and she relayed in her Sept. 12 column. "The most important thing is that the president is alive and safe and knows what's going on. We haven't seen this level of destruction on our home ground since the Civil War. This isn't the 'Titanic' movie. It's real."

Now, don't be fooled. Miss Dowd, whose journalism career spans the same post-1960s decades as mine, is hardly naive. And, Lord knows, that at our age and with all our how shall I say, experience we're hardly political virgins or Washington innocents. Some women journalists do, though, find more comfort in things male.

So, while Miss Dowd crossed paths with men (and women) as she sought the whereabouts of Mr. Bush, I decided to check out what the guys had to say. In their columns, that is. And about the attacks in New York and Washington, or about Mrs. Yates, of course not about Miss Dowd.

Anyway, a (male) colleague handed me a column by the Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts Jr. A guy, I now know, who lives up the road a piece from The Washington Times and whose syndicated writings appear in 100-plus newspapers. Well, Mr. Pitts turned out what I think is a prize-winning gem. Headlined, "We'll go forward from this moment," Mr. Pitts, takes on, with true grit, the "unknown author of this suffering," calling him a "monster," a "beast," an "unspeakable bastard."

In his column, Mr. Pitts then asks some of the very questions many of us have asked ourselves over and over and over again since last Tuesday. "What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that you failed. Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.

"Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve.

"Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together."

Small wonder Mr. Pitts received more than 21,000 e-mail responses or that callers jammed his voice-mail a remarkable reaction. That is the kind of response that a columnist might expect if she wrote about something that would be really and truly controversial, perhaps suggesting something like giving men pregnancy tests.

Indeed, some journalists (male and female) can't seem to muster the true grit that's needed to support what must be done. Others say the United States brought this monster upon itself, and others say the beast is the culmination of America's collective sins. Why they, including Miss Dowd, even shiver at the thought of national missile defense programs.

Humph. They talk as if war means convening the good guys and the bad guys in a war room and ordering takeout.

They talk like girls not women and men who cover news.

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