When people think of television journalism, Katie Couric is one of the first names that comes to mind. She’s been all over during her career, from co-anchoring NBC’s “Today” show to being the first solo female anchor of a national news broadcast on “CBS Evening News” with Katie Couric. She’s also a best-selling author and outspoken cancer advocate. Now, Couric hosts and executive produces her own syndicated daytime talk show, “Katie.”
It was an honor to meet her during a recent visit to Phoenix and have a chance to ask her a few personal questions. As usual Katie was on the run so the conversation was brief, but here’s a quick peek into my five minutes with Katie.
Q: What got you interested in journalism?
A: My dad was a print reporter. He covered politics in Florida for United Press and then moved to Washington. He worked for the Atlantic Constitution. I think if I could do anything as a kid I could write and I could write well under pressure because I was a big procrastinator, so I think that coupled with my natural curiosity about people made journalism an attractive option for me.
Q: When you were starting out who were your role models?
A: I really liked people who were great writers. I liked watching 60 Minutes and some of the great reporters on that show like Morley Safer and Mike Wallace. Barbara Walters certainly was a huge trailblazer for women everywhere. When she was on the “Today” show she had to wait for a man to ask three questions before she could ask one. She really fought the fight for women in television and paved the way for so many of us. Certainly I looked up to her, Jane Pauley, when I was just getting into the business, Cassie Mackin, who covered Capitol Hill and worked for the Boston Sun in print and transitioned to television. Also people like Nina Totenberg and Cokie Roberts, all those women who were really getting into the industry when men were saying they wanted the broads out of broadcasting. They really pushed forward and paved the way for a lot of us that came afterward.
Q: What was your first job in journalism?
A: My first job in journalism was at a radio station in Washington called WABA, which was all news radio. I was an intern and basically got coffee, but I watched people in action and I watched the level of professionalism that was at that station and went out on a few stories. While I really enjoyed radio, the doors were starting to open for women in television and I thought I would give it a try, because it was more lucrative than radio to be frank, and I’m happy to say it worked out pretty well.
Q: How does it feel to be a role model now for so many young women?
A: It’s a real compliment and a real honor. I have tried to conduct myself and my life in a way that hopefully is admirable for young girls. That’s one of the reasons I took the job at “CBS Evening News.” There had never been a single solo female anchor to do that newscast who was considered competent and experienced enough to take that job. I thought that was a real step in the right direction. I wanted girls watching it, and for that matters boys watching it, to see that a woman could handle that job by herself. Especially as a mother of two daughters it’s been important for me to conduct myself in a certain way and make good choices (That’s what I always say to my daughters as they’re going out at night, ‘Make good choices!’) to handle my life and career in a positive way and lead my life in a way that hopefully young women may want to replicate.
Q: You took on that role at “CBS Evening News,” now you’re in a completely different role. What’s it like to be in these different positions?
A: I think having done the “Today” show I did a little bit of both. I did very serious hard-hitting news. I would interview world leaders like David Duke on the same day I would interview Miss Piggy or fly through the plaza as Peter Pan. I think that show afforded me an opportunity to do a whole variety of different things. I think with the evening news it was a more serious format and people wondered what happened to her personality, but it’s hard to have a personality when you’re talking about such serious topics in a format that is pretty tight. I do like to have conversations. I love to talk. I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for me to enter into this new arena and do a talk show, but talk that matters. I wanted to have conversations about substantive things. There’s so much fluff out in the world and so for me to be able to roll up my sleeves and really tackle a social issue or a trend or some kind of problem that we are facing, is a real privilege for me.
The second season of “Katie” will premier on Monday, Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. on ABC 15.
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