Interview by Wendy Sachs
“I don’t know once I’m going to decelerate. When are you going to decelerate?” Katie Couric asks me over the cellphone once we speak in early December. The enduring, history-making anchor has just lately wrapped a cross-country, Michelle Obama-style e book tour for her aggressively unfiltered and unflinching memoir “Going There,” which debuted in October.
At 65 years previous, when some folks, most individuals, could also be searching for an exit, Couric is all in, writing, producing, and reinventing her media firm and model of journalism. And as her 1.3 million followers on Instagram can attest, she appears to be in every single place lately, even serving as the primary visitor co-host of “Jeopardy!” final March. So, whereas many quietly retreated in the course of the pandemic, Couric has by no means been busier.
Talking to Couric, who is just “Katie” to ladies of a sure generational span, the best way Hillary, Oprah, or Beyoncé equally command one identify, seems like simply one other girlfriend lamenting concerning the grind all of it. Besides that she is Katie Couric, who for 15 years (1991-2006) reigned over the TV media kingdom on the peak of morning community information present insanity, when visitor bookings have been a blood sport and score wars and anchor snark crammed media gossip columns. So, whereas my hustle is actual, it’s radically much less sparkly than Couric’s, which features a e book social gathering later that night time hosted by Ralph Lauren. Nonetheless, “Katie” makes me really feel like we’re in it collectively, sisters sweating it out on this loopy time, once we all have 10 jobs, and are reimagining our careers simply to remain related. And that sense of sorority is Couric’s magic.
In November in Nashville, on the final cease of “Going There’s” nine-city tour, I sat within the historic Ryman Auditorium with a whole lot of adoring, whooping followers, most of whom have been ladies. But when these ladies had come hoping to listen to Couric talk about Matt Lauer or relive her epic Sarah Palin interview, they might be upset. You possibly can learn the e book for these particulars. As a substitute, Couric kicked off this system with a concise TED-like speak that summed up her huge life, her storied profession, and the non-public grief of shedding her first husband Jay Monahan to colon most cancers at age 42, and her sister Emily to pancreatic most cancers only a few years later. Couric then wrapped the speak on an upbeat word. After 16 years of being single, Couric fell in love with John Molner, whom she married in 2014. Then Couric turned the highlight to others, artists, writers, and activists doing good work of their communities. In Nashville, Allison Russell sang, and Kimberly Williams Paisley and Brad Paisley’s talked about their meals pantry, The Retailer.
So, regardless of its identify, the e book tour was not likely to speak about Couric’s e book in any respect, however to inform different folks’s tales.
“The e book was my means of gathering folks and being in dialog,” Couric says. “It’s such an oppressively venomous and miserable media surroundings proper now, and I’ve thought for a number of years now that lots of the options are going to be occurring on the grassroots stage so to have the ability to highlight these unsung heroes and say, hey, this is a corporation that’s doing actually cool issues, and maybe you’d prefer to become involved.”
Couric sneaked within the spinach to what may have been merely a juicy recap from her memoir’s sizzle reel, like when Larry King lunged at her (“The tongue. The palms.”), or getting dumped over e-mail by Hollywood producer Tom Werner, or how her nanny grew to become obsessed together with her, or how one among her diets turned her pores and skin orange. However no, Couric shined the sunshine on others throughout her e book tour, as a result of she feels that her life’s story, whereas price writing about, “isn’t all that outstanding.”
Besides that it’s.
“Going There,” now a New York Occasions bestseller, has a lot of folks speaking as a result of there’s loads to unpack in these pages. Whereas the preliminary rollout generated some nasty early tales, it was clear to anybody who learn the e book, actually learn the e book, that the headlines have been the salacious click on bait of catfights and schadenfreude or maybe just a few bizarre hate for Couric. However the memoir is a web page turner and a surprisingly provocative take a look at the media’s institutional sexism and the way Couric’s profession was lodged in all of it, each earlier than and after the #MeToo motion impressed a cultural reckoning.
It additionally reads like a private reckoning, chronicling Couric’s journey from being generally known as America’s perky, plucky sweetheart with that well-known, gummy smile to the vampy, mercurial bitch — all sharp elbows and “clickety stilettos.” Couric writes that her personal insecurity fed by the fiercely aggressive nature of the information enterprise that on the time, had so few ladies on the prime, made her insecure and territorial. She digs into her emotions of paranoia when Ashleigh Banfield, the anchor on the rise, was getting lots of community consideration. Couric writes that she had heard Banfield’s father was telling folks that she was going to interchange her. “In that surroundings mentorship felt like self-sabotage.”
“I really feel like I used to be courageous writing concerning the issues I wrote. It didn’t all the time put me in a very good gentle. I admitted errors and instances the place my judgment failed me…I feel a part of the explanation we’re caught and we are able to’t transfer ahead on lots of these thorny points is no one’s capable of say, ‘I want I hadn’t accomplished that, or I want I had accomplished extra,’” Couric tells me. “I’m mortified to write down this, but it surely’s essential that all of us confront our previous.”
Granted, this isn’t the standard journo-celebrity autobiography, particularly coming from the bubbly lady America woke as much as each morning for 15 years. However Couric is genuinely stunned by the response all her self-reflection and e book candor is producing.
“I believed if I’m going to write down my life story, I ought to actually do this and never simply pick the nice components or the components the place I did the appropriate factor. I needed to say my regrets and my shortcomings and my failings,” Couric says. “It’s simply so bizarre when folks say to me, God, you have been so trustworthy. And I used to be like, effectively, isn’t that what a memoir is?”
The e book additionally paperwork the numerous turns Couric’s profession has taken over the previous 4 a long time. In 2006, after leaving the “At present” present, Couric went to CBS, turning into the primary lady to solo anchor a nightly community night broadcast. Her CBS gig additionally had her working as a correspondent for “60 Minutes,” a lifetime dream. Regardless of the hoopla surrounding her glass ceiling-breaking job, Couric writes that internally at CBS nobody was pumped she was coming. Her $15 million wage additionally grew to become a significant story – “the most important paycheck in community information on the time” and Couric’s hiring of a high-end designer to feminize her workplace and take away all indicators of Dan Quite smacked of diva-ness. “The workplace was stylish and sensible and would have seemed proper at house at NBC. However at West 57th, it caught out like a Givenchy robe at a hoedown,” Couric writes. “A extremely dumb transfer on my half.”
However it was the lads at CBS who Couric felt didn’t need her to succeed. Longtime government producer Jeff Fager, who has since been fired for sexual misconduct allegations, ran the place “like a fiefdom.” “What a dick,” Couric writes. On her preliminary tour of the workplace, a senior producer informed her, “’The mantra right here at ‘60 Minutes’ is ‘Another person’s success diminishes you. Another person’s failure elevates you.’”
After 5 icy years at CBS, Couric hosted “Katie,” a syndicated speak present after which pivoted to Yahoo as a “international information anchor.” This may develop into one among Couric’s most transformative profession strikes. It introduced her Boomer broadcast id in control in a digital age. It additionally uncovered Couric to the intersection of know-how and journalism and the best way to attain audiences on-line. After leaving Yahoo in 2017, Couric launched her media firm, KCM. Her husband, financier John Molner, serves as CEO. She’s been relishing her newest function as an entrepreneur studying new skillsets in a “pan-media enterprise” with 35 folks working for her.
“I feel it is a pure evolution of my curiosity, about the best way folks can see the best way we offer content material and the best way folks eat it. If you’re on the air, even in case you’re very concerned producing and arising with story concepts, you continue to do really feel sort of like keep in your lane. So, I’m studying issues like the best way to write an investor letter and the best way to rent folks and what to search for and issues that I by no means actually did in a extra conventional, broadcast area or media firm,” Couric says.
Couric’s firm works with “purpose-driven manufacturers” to create content material that aligns with Couric’s pursuits in well being, the surroundings, and gender equality. Working with manufacturers is a sensible measure, Couric says. It’s a strategy to pay her staff and even do some public service good — like reminding her viewers to get a mammogram or maintain their psychological well being, however Couric says she’s cautious concerning the manufacturers she works with and the tasks she picks. This mannequin offers her loads of independence to provide the content material she needs whether or not it’s interviewing Cecile Richards, the previous president of Deliberate Parenthood, or discussing the most recent Supreme Court docket rulings regarding reproductive rights.
Perhaps it’s age, or that she lo longer faces the specter of a youthful, spunkier, hotter feminine journalist dethroning her, or possibly it’s that it’s now within the zeitgeist for ladies to assist ladies — however Katie 2.0 has doubled down on lifting ladies up and selling points that impression ladies together with reproductive rights, most cancers screening, and fairness.
Couric’s firm is 95 % feminine, and she or he has been investing in women-owned companies and highlights feminine founders on her platforms. She is creating female-centric scripted reveals and two documentary collection with ladies on the helm. Couric was an government producer on “Unbelievable,” an Emmy-nominated 2019 sexual assault drama which she helped choice to Netflix.
At instances, “Going There” reads like a real-life “Forrest Gump.” The index to the e book is an epic “who’s who” of just about each influential individual of the trendy period. It’s a reminder that Couric actually has been in every single place, even her colon — captured throughout a reside colonoscopy on the “At present” present to encourage folks to get their colons checked. We’ve watched Couric be celebrated for breaking obstacles as the primary lady to steer a nightly information community broadcast after which be ripped aside by that very media that apparently wasn’t prepared for a girl to steer.
Via all of it, Couric’s life has outlined moxie and persistence, private grief, and reinvention on such a big stage for such a very long time and she or he reveals no indicators of slowing down any time quickly.
“I’m all about studying new issues and rising, regardless of how previous I’m. I feel you get to a sure age, and also you simply don’t need to work for the person anymore,” Couric says. “You recognize tv is a really capricious business the place tastes change and also you’re on the mercy of viewers or executives to determine that they’re simply not that into you anymore. And that’s a really tough feeling to have. I’ve complete job safety till I don’t need it anymore.”
“Going There” is now obtainable to buy.
Wendy Sachs is a documentary movie director and producer, Emmy Award-winning community information tv producer, author, and speaker. She can be a former Capitol Hill press secretary, media relations government, and the creator of two critically acclaimed books about ladies and careers: “Fearless and Free — How Good Girls Pivot and Relaunch their Careers” and “How She Actually Does It: Secrets and techniques of Profitable Keep-at-Work Mothers.”