Katie Couric / George Lange for USA WEEKEND
3-year-old Couric with siblings, from right, Emily, Clara and John / Courtesy of Katie Couric
Couric's daughters, Ellie, left, and Carrie / Photos courtesy Katie Couric
Katie Couric's parents, Elinor Tullie and John Martin Couric Jr. / Photos courtesy Katie Couric
Couric's late husband, Jay Moahan (around 1996) with daughter Ellie. / Photos courtesy Katie Couric
At 54, Katie Couric has had quite a life, of huge ups and devastating downs. In 2006, she became the first solo female anchor of a weekday network newscast, the CBS Evening News. It was the pinnacle of a career in which she started, as she puts it, as "a gofer" at ABC News in Washington.
In her personal life, though, Couric has suffered two great losses, both to cancer: first, her husband, Jay Monahan, who died at age 42, and then, three years later, her older sister Emily.
But Couric is a fighter. Off the job, she has become the nation's leading advocate for colon cancer screening and awareness, and she is the proud mother of two girls, Ellie, 19, and Carrie, 15.
Now her book, The Best Advice I Ever Got, is due out April 12. Here, Couric, gives us her best advice.
Let 'em know you're there.
I'm not sure when my mom started saying that, but I know all four of her kids heard it plenty of times as we were growing up. My mom can be quite shy. But she encouraged us to get out there, which inspired us to go for things like running for student council or auditioning for the high school musical, even though I was cast as a deaf person who couldn't speak. (I protested to the drama teacher, and he acquiesced by giving me the role of a dancing bear.) I think trying — and yes, failing — gave us all self-confidence.
When I tried to get my first job in television news, I showed up at the ABC News bureau in Washington, D.C., called the executive producer from the front desk and said in a determined voice, "Hi, Davey, you don't know me, but your twin brothers went to high school with my sister Kiki." I asked if I could come up, and he ushered me into the office of the deputy bureau chief, who seemed impressed with my ability to weasel my way upstairs. I saw him take my resume from a big pile and put in on top. A few weeks later, I got the job.
Don't let the turkeys get you down.
Early in my career, I was told time and time again I'd never make it in broadcasting. When I got my first break at CNN, I heard the anchors talking to each other before I went on. To hear them say: "Who is that girl? She looks like she's 16 years old!" was not exactly a confidence booster. When Reese Schonfeld, then-president of CNN, called the assignment desk and said he never wanted to see me on the air again, I was devastated. But I remembered one of those Sandra Boynton coffee cups that said, "Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down." And I didn't. I decided I would work harder and hopefully get better. And I did.
Today you may be drinking the wine, tomorrow you could be picking the grapes.
I first heard this from a veteran producer at NBC when I was tapped to become co-anchor of Today. I never forgot it. He was saying, "Fame can be fleeting and success short-lived." It was another way of telling me, "Don't get too big for your britches." It was a reminder that the people you may pass on your way up are the same ones who will catch you when you fall. It's essential to value all your colleagues, no matter what position they are in, and treat them with dignity and respect. Nothing bothers me more than people who suck up and scream down.
The Earth belongs to the living, not the dead.
I read so many books on grief after my husband, Jay, died, but it was this quote from Thomas Jefferson that resonated most. When Jay was very, very sick, he turned to me and said, "You know, nothing really matters except your family and your friends." Sometimes when I'm on a professional treadmill, I think about what Jay said.
Trust your gut.
Everyone has that inner voice that tells you when something is wrong, and a second inner voice that makes you speak out when people are wronged. You have to trust both, even though it often takes courage to muster the second. Whether it was refusing to shoplift with some friends in seventh grade or listen to an executive who told me to wear pastel sweaters to soften my look when I first started on the Today show, I've tried to stay true to myself.
Sometimes you're the pigeon, sometimes you're the statue.
Linda Ellerbee, formerly of NBC News and now doing terrific specials for kids with Nick News, wrote that in her book. It might seem more appealing to be the pigeon, but I've come to realize that being critical and judgmental isn't much fun.
My daughters have kept me honest through the years. When I once described a woman we knew as "materialistic,"Ellie, who was 16 at the time, called me out, explaining the woman had a wonderfully kind daughter but was buying things because she was "compensating for being in a loveless marriage."I was stunned by her insight and compassion. I now try to think twice about being the pigeon and judging other people too harshly. Oftentimes they're doing the best they can.