Susan Morrison was the second editor-in-chief of The New York Observer, succeeding Graydon Carter. In 1992, she assigned a writer named Peter Kaplan to cover TV for the Observer. He wrote three “TV Diary” installments for the paper and then a few months later became the Observer’s editor. These stories have never before been published online.
One of the first things I did when I became the editor of the New York Observer was to draft Peter Kaplan to write a column called TV Diary. This was years before the dawning of what we now call the golden age of television, but Peter engaged with TV in a serious way. His pieces about the coverage of the 1992 presidential election, and, a little later, about how the Clinton administration played on TV, were classic Kaplan—aphoristic, fizzy, knowing, with a keen eye for details that Peter would probably call “nutty.” He memorably dubbed Bill Clinton “the self-help president,” and, years before Monica Lewinsky showed up in the White House, he wrote the sentence, “Get ready for the press conference as search for inner self.” It wasn’t easy to get these columns out of Peter, and I wish there were more of them (his standards for his own writing were high, and he agonized over deadlines) but everything we printed by him was incandescent. — Susan Morrison
Bush’s Valedictory, Clinton’s Self-Help — Oct. 19, 1992
TV: Dead or Alive? Why the Talking Heads Didn’t Talk — Nov. 23, 1992
The Clinton Show: A Whiff of Leno — Feb. 8, 1993