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Katie Couric goes behind the scenes in the cutthroat world of morning TV news

Updated October 23, 2021 at 7:24 PM ET

At the height of her journalism career, Katie Couric's success at the Today show rested on balancing a girl-next-door likability with getting the story.

It was the cutthroat heyday of morning news shows, when ratings often trumped ethics.

In her new memoir, Going There, Couric dishes on what audiences couldn't always see during the years she worked for ABC, CBS, NBC and Yahoo. She also details what was happening in her personal life at the time.

She recounts the heartbreak as she lost her husband, Jay Monahan, and her sister, Emily Couric, to cancer. And what it was like to see the allegations about her friend and former co-host, Matt Lauer, who was fired from NBC for sexual misconduct.

Couric reflected on that time in broadcast television, during the 1990s and the 2000s, in an interview with NPR's Weekend Edition.

Interview highlights

On the "catfight" narrative used to describe the morning TV news climate

It was so — it was actually so insane. That period of time was sort of — sensational stories seemed to dominate the headlines. It was left to the women who were involved in a lot of primetime shows to try to get these gets. And honestly, it was so intense and — especially in the morning where somebody would be in a hotel room and someone would call up and say, "We're here to pick you up. The Today show said it was OK if you come to Good Morning America first."

The catfight narrative was really born out of that level of competition. And so, I think it became a real trope to talk about women in that way.

On working with Matt Lauer

I think the culture back then was kind of "don't ask, don't tell." Like, you didn't really want to get involved in people's — what was considered their personal life. You know, there were extramarital relationships going on that were pretty much out in the open. There were relationships going on with bosses and their subordinates that you heard about. You never knew kind of what was true and what wasn't. So, I just kind of focused on my work.

I think our understanding of what is a consensual relationship — I mean, I think that's really the nub of it — has changed so dramatically. That if there is a power differential, the notion of something being consensual doesn't necessarily hold.

On why she excluded some of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's response to her interview question about Colin Kaepernick in 2016

I was asking her about Colin Kaepernick, and her response surprised me. She said kneeling during the national anthem was dumb and disrespectful. And people who do that — you know, they have a right to do it, but [she thought it was] stupid and arrogant. And later, I think, she said, it's contempt for a government that has helped them lead a better life than where they came from.

Afterwards, her clerks called and said she misunderstood the question, she misspoke. So, I was like, is that true? She sounded pretty emphatic about that. Or are there aspects of the story she didn't understand? I admired her personally, but I also knew I had a professional obligation to share her views. And so, I thought, I'll use where she directly responded to it. And then this other part, I didn't use.

Journalists are, contrary to popular belief, we are humans, too. And I really struggled with that decision, and I think I included it [in the book] because I do think it deserves criticism. And I welcome that.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Ian (pronounced "yahn") Stewart is a producer and editor for Weekend Edition and Up First.
Danny Hensel
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