Katie Couric on Her Media Diet and Writing Her Memoir

From a Wall Street Journal interview by Lane Florsheim headlined “Katie Couric on Matt Lauer, Her Media Diet, and Writing Her New Memoir”:

Katie Couric isn’t proud of several moments in her journalism career, like when she went “undercover” as a homeless person for a bit of stunt reporting, or the time on her Yahoo show she edited out Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s disapproving statements on athletes who kneel during the national anthem in order to “protect” her. “It was important for me to shine a lens on myself and to be introspective about my own mistakes in my own personal evolution,” Couric, 64, now says.

That personal journey is at the center of her new memoir, Going There, which chronicles her rise through the Big Three television networks at a time when they were brazen boys’ clubs. She became known as “America’s sweetheart” during her 15 years co-anchoring the Today Show before taking over CBS Evening News, then hosting her own daytime show, Katie, on ABC. In the book, she recounts interviewing momentous figures including Barbara and George H.W. Bush, David Duke, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Sarah Palin, and she writes openly about losing her first husband, Jay Monahan, and her sister, Emily Couric, to cancer. The chapters she spends on the sexual assault allegations against her former Today co-host Matt Lauer offer a look into the experience of finding out the worst about someone you cared about and trusted.

Now Couric is trying to put much of that behind her, running her own media company, Katie Couric Media, with her husband, John Molner. She hosts a podcast, Next Question With Katie Couric, and oversees the Wake-Up Call newsletter, a daily news explainer….She describes her podcast interviews these days—with politicos and luminaries including Sanjay Gupta, Hillary Clinton and Ibram X. Kendi—as “not that confrontational,” a shift from part of her earlier career. “They’re more informational now, trying to help people understand, trying to simplify or synthesize really complicated topics,” she says. “I’ve done this for a while, and I think I’m pretty good at being a good listener.”

What time do you get up on Mondays, and what’s the first thing you do?

I get up around 7 or 7:30, and I grab my phone. I check my emails first to see if there’s anything urgent and my text messages to make sure no one’s in dire straits….And then I start reading newsletters. Honestly, I think newsletters have become the new newspapers.

What’s the rest of your media diet?

I like David Leonhardt’s email from the New York Times. I also like the Daily Recount, [the Washington Post‘s] the Early 202…. I like Tom Jones’s email from the Poynter Institute because I’ve done some work with them. The Vanity Fair newsletters. I scroll a lot on Apple News. I read the New Yorker. I read the Atlantic but mostly at night. I scroll through Twitter to see what’s happening. I sometimes read articles on Medium….I don’t watch a lot of TV, believe it or not. I pretty much look at everything on my phone.

What does your schedule look like when it comes to your newsletter and podcast?

One of the reasons I’m loving what I’m doing now is there are no two days alike. I may be reviewing stuff or [working on] the newsletter. I might be preparing for a podcast. I just interviewed Stanley Tucci, and we actually had a long conversation about our experience dealing with spouses who had cancer. My podcast right now is about topics that I deal with in the book. I talk a lot about cancer and losing my husband and sister….

In the intro of your book Going There, you write about the phenomenon of people feeling as though they knew you, but really knowing only the TV version. What did you learn about your-self from writing the book?

That, like any other human being on the planet, I’m complicated. And I think people want to take complex human beings—when we all are the sum of our life experiences, our families, our upbringings—and sort of put you in a box. I’ve learned that I have a lot of different sides, and that’s OK….

I appreciated the chapters you wrote on Matt Lauer, the way you recounted how you processed the initial shock and everything after.

I think it’s very generational in some ways, the way people have perceived these things. My daughters see things very differently than I do. It’s sort of like the frog in the proverbial boiling water for a lot of women who have been in the workplace for decades.

What advice do you have for young women who want to follow in your footsteps, given the media industry’s continuing sexism?

I think cream rises to the top. So, first and foremost, really learn your craft and continue to improve; cover all kinds of stories. I always say that I’m five miles wide and half an inch deep. It’s really smart, I think, to learn how to edit, to make sure that you’re a jill-of-all-trades, if you will, and that you can put together interviews that are audio [and] that are visual. Gone are the days when you worked for one company for 30 years and retired with the gold watch. Having said that, I still think it’s one of those jobs where you learn something new every day. You get exposed to all kinds of fascinating people and ideas. You get to think about ideas and inventions and policy. And so, for me, if you’re insatiably curious and you love to learn, it’s like going to graduate school for the rest of your life.

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