Everybody and their mama has a new daytime talk show debuting today—Survivor’s Jeff Probst, Ricki Lake, Anderson Cooper with his totally revamped, Anderson Live, all hit the little screen today, following behind last week’s debut of Steve Harvey, the new talk show by the comedian of the same name. With such a crowded field, it’s hard to decide what to watch. But I’m a newswoman by trade—spent a decade in the trenches as a hard news, political and, later, entertainment reporter at some of the top institutions in the world, often one of the few women and all-too-often the only African American female in the newsroom. So I take it personal when a fellow female journalist with true talent, intelligence, grit and mettle makes it to the top and sits in the big chair. Today, I’ll be tuning in to watch—and celebrate!—longtime journalist Katie Couric as she kicks off her new show, Katie.
I had the great honor and pleasure of meeting Katie here in Atlanta last month during her afternoon visit with WSB-TV, the local ABC affiliate that’ll be airing Katie. During a packed luncheon, she gave us a sneak peek at her show, waxed poetic about the kinds of stories she’ll be doing and made a point of assuring her rapt audience that Katie would be engaging, smart, well-rounded and fun. And it looks like she’s making good on her promise: over the next two weeks, she’ll be interviewing Jessica Simpson about her baby and getting back in shape after pregnancy; Jennifer Lopez will weigh in on what it’s like to date a younger man; Wendy Williams will talk about why hair is such a big deal for us women, and; author E.L. James will get in some naughty talk about her hit book, “50 Shades of Grey.”
Katie promised that her show would appeal particularly to mothers and mature women—people who all-too-often get treated as if we’re too busy/dumb/uninterested in intelligent topics to bother with smart television. I really got the sense that she respects our intelligence and wants to give us solid programming that appeals to exactly what we are: smart, engaged women thirsty for solid, well-rounded stories that speak to our lives. I’m also geeked that Katie tapes the same day it airs, so if there’s a big news story happening somewhere, Katie Couric can put on that hard news journalist hat she’s worn on the anchor of the Today show and CBS Evening News and knock the afternoon news out of the park.
Katie graciously answered a few questions for MyBrownBaby. Here, our exclusive interview:
MyBrownBaby: I just tweeted “Proof that @KatieCouric has teens? She used YOLO in a sentence. Correctly.” Tell me about the “You Only Live Once” segment and why it’s a highlight in your new show.
Katie Couric: I mean, I think that one thing people would like me to do on the show is to have fun. And I think you need some kind of franchise to allow you to have fun. One of the things I’ve enjoyed throughout my career is being able to try new things and I’ve been in the enviable position to do it. A lot of people would say, “Gee, I would love to ride in a race car with Danica Patrick,” but I can actually make it happen because of the access I have. So I feel very fortunate. So I thought wouldn’t it would be fun to do a series of stories about some of the things I’ve always wanted to do, but really what I had in mind is leading to other people getting to do things, because nothing’s more fun to me than watching people fulfill one of their fantasies. And so the idea that we could make that happen for people, I felt it was like a little gift we could give them. So that’s where we came up with the idea for it. It’s really a more modern take on a bucket list. And I’m at the age where I do have to think of a bucket list. I hate to say it, but I do have to think of the things I do really want to do while I’m vibrant and in good enough shape physically and mentally to do them.
MBB: That’s inspiration for all of us, but especially for us moms who’ll be home watching your show. As a mother who works from home, I have to say I’m really impressed by your willingness to stand up and say that, “hey, these moms are not stupid, they appreciate a good story told from all different angles and they don’t need news and sources in 140 characters on Twitter.” Why was it important to you to build a show around that belief?
KC: There are so many complicated topics that just get short shrift these days and I think maybe that’s one of the reasons why people became so entrenched in their own point of view. Most topics are nuanced and you can look at them from various perspectives. But I think people don’t take the time to learn those perspectives and to have a well-rounded understanding of anything. And so I think it speaks to the way we consume these bursts of information or we see people yelling at each other and feel like we have to pick sides.
MBB: Is that a function of political polarization—where you can turn to one channel and hear everybody preaching to your choir?
KC: Oh I think it definitely reinforces already held beliefs and validates them. I think one of the great things about our country is you can have different opinions and you have the freedom to express those opinions. I don’t think everyone needs to think the same, they just need to respect each other. And I think there’s a lack of respect for other people who don’t have the same views as your own. And I think that’s reinforced by people feeling one way watching one station and people feeling another way watching another station. I’m not going to do a lot of politics on my show, but I think that I can cover a lot of different relevant topics, whether you’re talking about immigration or you’re talking about healthcare. I think that ignorance is the real enemy of reason. And I think that hopefully I’ll provide a more well-rounded perspective for different topics.
MBB: You seem to be quite passionate about covering parenting, women in general, and women of age in particular. Why are these subjects important to you?
KC: I think it’s a reflection of my own life experiences. I’ve been very fortunate; sometimes I go to these speakers at my daughter’s high school. She goes to private high school in New York and they get some very well-known speakers and experts and authors and I’ll sit and listen to a lectures about something—maybe it’s about alcohol consumption and teen behavior and what’s happening with the teenage brain that makes them act the way they act. And sometimes I’ll be sitting there and I’ll think, “You know, everyone should have access to this kind of information. This shouldn’t only be the purview of a certain socioeconomic level. I think that everybody deserves to get the information they need and that they should have. I just feel like I have the potential to help do that, and that’s exciting and it’s also, I think, important.
MBB: Sharing those personal experiences must be a bit weird for you; as old school newswomen, we were always told not to give our personal story—not to let people in. Today, people follow journalists around with cameras…
KC: There’s very little privacy now for anyone but I think the reason it’s important to share my personal experience—when appropriate; I don’t want to over-share and this show isn’t going to be all about me—but you want people to relate to you and to know that a lot of the things they’re worried about you’re worried about. A lot of the things they care about you care about. I think we’re all much more similar than most people realize: we all want our kids to be healthy, we all want to be healthy, we all want our kids to have a good education and be able to contribute to society, we all want to look good, we all want to feel good, we all want to be connected. We all want relationships to be fulfilling and meaningful. I think that there is so much that we have in common. My hope is that people will find that connection when they watch the show.
Katie, starring Katie Couric, debuts today. Visit KatieCouric.com to see what time and station it airs in your area.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.