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How Katie Couric Became my Least Favorite Journalist

Updated on August 21, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.


Why not?

Why would anybody not want to watch Katie Couric during her two seasons as a talk show host? It's Katie Couric of the Today Show. It's Katie Couric of the CBS Evening News. It's Katie Couric - the next Oprah!


Couric did what women in broadcasting have been trying to do since the early 1960s when Barbara Walters was given the huge break in television for that day with a chance to be one of the “Today Girls” (official name) on what became the iconic morning show. Though eventually serving as a co-host, she wasn't given that official billing until 1974, and was restricted from asking questions of the show's "serious" guests until the male co-host had finished asking his. Walters persevered year after year, eventually got her shot at the “serious guests” becoming the reporter who arranged the first joint interview with Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.

Because of the trailblazing of women like Walters, Couric got the chance to sit alone at the evening news anchor desk instead of just being the cute sidekick. Then after only a little more than five years, she’s walking away to be – wait for it – a talk show host.

Now, Barbara Walters was the first woman to sit at an evening news anchor desk – period. But she was there with a co-anchor who undermined her at every turn, on air and off. She now hosts a talk show. But it’s twenty-four years later, and she is in semi-retirement. She didn’t walk away from her hard-won, historic position of her own volition. She was driven away by the old boys’ network, prejudice, and ignorance. She didn’t say, “Gee Whiz! What I’d really like is to be the next Oprah!”

Couric knows, she knows, exactly what the women who came before her struggled with, and worked for, and sacrificed, in order to pave the way for her to be the one woman the networks anointed with this opportunity. It is the most coveted jewel in journalism’s crown. Network evening news. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. She made it climbing on the shoulders of Walters, Savitch, Pauley, Sawyer, Stahl, and Chung, just to name the ones we are most familiar with, at least if you are more than forty years of age. These are women who made their way onto our television screens by being more than blond or having great legs, which seems to be the standard for so many female broadcasters today. How many others had to settle for local news in small or medium markets and never had an article written about them in TV Guide? How many never made it to the networks at all, even to take their shot? And Couric just walks away? It’s a slap in their collective faces.

And it’s not like the anchor position was just handed to her. She did put in the years and did the grunt work. Couric started out after college as a desk assistant at ABC working under Sam Donaldson. That couldn’t have been an easy gig. When CNN was in its infancy she became a segment producer and sometime on-air reporter. She moved up to full time reporting for an NBC affiliate in Washington, then covered the Pentagon for the Washington bureau of NBC network news. The first Gulf War gave her the chance to do stories for “Today” eventually leading to her replacing the damned-from-the-start co-anchor Deborah Norville who had been seen as pushing the beloved Jane Pauley out. Couric interviewed all the big names, got the “gets” of magazine journalism in the 1990s, and lent herself out to some of the evening magazine shows. If she had never done another thing after “Today” she would still have retired a television news hall of famer by any standard. She knew how much the odds were stacked against her making it to the chair Tom Brokow or Peter Jennings occupied every night.

But her day finally came. Along came CBS, and several million dollars later Couric became the first woman to anchor the evening news alone – the first. And along with that top post she was given the opportunity to contribute to the CBS flagship news magazine “60 Minutes” and host prime time news specials. Her news broadcast enjoyed the highest ratings for the show since 1998, and Couric herself twice won the Edward R. Murrow Award for best newscast.

And a mere five years later, she aspired to become a daytime talk show host? Did Walter Cronkite aspire to be the next Phil Donahue? Can you imagine Tom Brokow giving up the evening news to do daytime chatter?

"It's been quite a journey for me and the idea of coming back to ABC where my whole career began is really quite something and it's very exciting," said Couric. "I had to work my way up into the newsroom."

Yes, you did. So did other women. And what will they be saddled with now that you’ve left? “Better not hire a woman. What she probably really wants is a talk show not the anchor desk.”

At least ABC assigned Diane Sawyer to their evening news desk before all this drama unfolded. By all indicators, she is staying the course. And she will probably continue to. Sawyer is from the generation just prior to Couric.

Sawyer is from the era when women in television news divisions, both behind and in front of the camera, organized groups in the 1970s to pressure executives to give women in these areas more power and representation. There were well-publicized sex discrimination and sexual harassment suits at every turn, and change has come slowly. CNN, a cable channel needing to fill 24 hours with programing every day, has put more women on the air, and the profitability of increasing the number of "newsmagazines" on the air prompted the broadcast networks to include more female anchors in the early 1990s. Still females are only used as "experts" on news shows about fifteen percent of the time, an issue of representation as important as their presence as news anchors.

“When women are seen as authority figures in our culture, their representation in all media forms will change for the better,” said Mary Desjardins of the Museum of Broadcast Communication.

When was the last time someone named a talk show host as an authority figure?

The Center for Media and Public Affairs analyzes who reports what on the national newscasts, and seventy-five percent of the stories were still reported by men as recently as the mid-2000s (most recent figures).

"Changing the pattern, and persuading people that it is wise to do so, will take more effort than we've seen to date." In her book, "Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in Broadcasting," Donna Halper also says:

"As I write this, the president of the N.A.B. [National Association of Broadcasters], the presidents of all the major networks, and the owners of the five biggest broadcast groups, in other words, all the important decision-makers in broadcasting, are still men, just as they were in the 1930s. The conventions of broadcasting are still overwhelmingly male, and the decisions that are made that affect women are still made by a very small group of men who have that influence and power."

Marci Burdick, the first woman to chair the Radio-Television News Director Association, says she's "heartened by the fact that there's marked progress" in the numbers of women directing newsrooms.

“Television is, after all, the medium from which most people obtain their news and their ideas about the world. When the workforce numbers in TV news plateau with just one out of four national stories reported by women, with just one of four news directors a woman, and with talent heading for the exits because of burnout over work-life conflicts, we're clearly far from the ideal--farther away than we thought we'd be by now.”

Yes, we should be farther along than we are. And Katie, you have not helped.

I can already hear the voices of reason that will insist what Couric is doing is exactly what the Women’s Movement was all about. She is choosing for herself. And, yes, she is free to do that. But she is not just anybody. Couric is where she is only because of the endurance and sacrifices of women in her field going back fifty years. Couric’s generation reaped the benefits of those women reaped none of the benefits but who put their careers on the line for the women who would come after them. She is indebted. It is not just about her personal preferences. It was her responsibility to make the most of what was so hard won for women in broadcasting and what was placed in her hands for safekeeping.

No, I did not be watch “Katie.” Not even once. I didn’t have the heart or the stomach for it, and apparently I wasn't the only one. The show has been cancelled after only two seasons. I wonder what Katie will be given the opportunity to do next.


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    • my_girl_sara profile image

      Cynthia Lyerly 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Giving you a high-five, Kathleen! Like you, I refuse to watch Katie's new show. I loved her on Today. Then her true colors of extreme feminism came out when she got the anchor job on CBS. Ugh. The hair got short and she turned into some man/woman with an ugly edge and a leftist view. Notice how she's grown her hair back out for this new role on her talk show.

      Let's be honest, it's all about the money! That is why she left the evening news. Nobody watches the network nightly news anymore.

      Excellent research on the blog!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      moonlake: Glad you found this one. I write about off the wall things that get under my skin. (Thank goodness I don't talk in cliches!)

      I admire the way Katie came up. I don't admire that she threw it away at the cost of other hard-working women who haven't had her luck.

    • moonlake profile image


      5 years ago from America

      I don't like Katie Couric never have and never will so I don't watch her. I didn't watch her when she was on the news and won't now with her new show. Interesting hub voted up.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      The woman definetly deserves some happiness, and actually I expect her to succeed in this show. I'm just disappointed in her.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      6 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Out of sheer curiosity I tuned in to observe Katie in her new role. I was disappointed. It just didn't feel right. It seemed like a step down after all that she has represented. So, I have to agree with you for the most part. I won't be watching her show. But I wish her success for her sake.

      Loved the hub and will be sharing!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      carol7777 - Welcome to my hubs. Thanks for taking the time to comment and thanks for the read.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      I think all TV personalities have a shelf life. She is just trying to find a place. I am ambivalent about this..probably won't watch it anyway. Great hub and voted up and shared.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Actually, I think the moment they inject their personal opinion they go from being a journalist to being a commentator, which Katie will now be as a talk show host. Katie certainly has the right to choose the career path she prefers. I just can't believe after all her hard work and the opportunities she was given, that she is settling for this.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Katleen , Often I have to check myself , there is a huge difference between a journalist and a news anchor ! The minute they inject their personal oppinion into the subject , they become a journalist ! I'm not sure Katie knows the difference. Thats not good for an anchor , I'm sure she can be just as biased or prejudiced as Ophra though . Great hub !.......:-}

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks TToombso8: This situation struck a chord in me, I guess because I'm from the generation just ahead of Couric's. It has frustrated to me no end younger women who don't seem to realize what it took to win rights and priviledges they now take for granted. I'm sure this same thing can be said by many generations about many things. Thanks for commenting.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      I'm sorry to say that I've never really been a big fan of Couric. Great hub and a lot of good information and background. Nicely done, Kathleen.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      annerivendell: "To thine own self be true." I can't argue with that. I do believe however, that there are debts we must repay. I'm sure Couric feels that she is doing that. I disagree.

      Thank you, though, for your thoughtful comments. I don't write just for people to agree with me. Welcome to my hubs!

    • annerivendell profile image


      6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I have to disagree with you, Kathleen, with all due respect. I don't know Couric, as I live in Ireland and don't get U.S TV, but I don't believe that any person must or should sacrifice their life choices just to please others. We must be true to ourselves and be allowed to change our mind and make choices about our own life. From what you say, it seems Couric achieved her goal through hard work-yes perhaps also on the shoulders of those who went before her, but isn't that how most of us achieve our goals? Gratitude is one thing, but are we to be ever indebted to those who came before and after us, or do we live our own life and allow others to live theirs?

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      teaches12345 and Daytime Divas: Thanks for your point of views and your comments. You have to take my opinion with a grain of salt. As a life-long news junkie and former newspaper reporter, I definitiesly have a point of view on this subject.

    • profile image

      Daytime Divas 

      6 years ago from Salem, Genoa City, Port Charles...

      Interesting perspective, Kathleen, one I hadn't considered, but agree with. I'm afraid my reasons for not watching Katie Couric in a talk show format is much more trite than yours.

      As a fan of soap operas I'm dispappointed to see ABC move General Hospital from its timeslot to make room for yet another talk show - even one hosted by the popular Ms. Couric. Especially after the cancellation of one of ABC's talk shows "The Revolution" that replaced other long running soap operas...

      I admit I'm a bit polarized in my televison viewing. I like my news to be news and if I want trite escapist entertainment I was it to be just attempt to blend the two - the talk show - just isn't my cup of tea.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      You have a point here, Kathleen. Katie has been around for quite awhile and knows her stuff, but maybe it's time to give someone else a chance.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks JayeWisdom and phdast7: Thanks for the encouragement. The scariest part of this is the possibility that in our pop culture there are those who might see this as a step up!

      Talks shows used to feature new authors and public servant/politicians. Too often now days, they are only about the latest abberation.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Couric's decision is disappointing and a blow to the progress of women in serious journalism. As you pointed out so effectively, she's literally throwing away the gains she made for herself and for other female journalists who aspire to the anchor chair.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Kathleen - This is a "ferocious" essay you have written here. That is an extreme compliment in my book. It is terribly disappointing that Couric is making this move. From serious journalism to lighthearted fluff.

      There were other directions she could have gone in, serious choices and positions she could have opted for - a prestigious think tank, lecturing at universities, spokesman for a foundation or charity... but to go backwards is terribly disheartening.

      There are those who will think you are being too harsh, cute Katie should be free to do anything she wants...yes she is free, as we all are. However, I am grateful that you are free to be "ferocious." An important and excellent essay. Thank you for writing it.


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