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Katie Couric's memoir is a master class in likability

  • In Couric's new memoir, Going There, the "tales of glory, the mea culpas, and even the dish proved less fascinating to me ... than Couric’s command of the art of being likable," says Laura Miller. "(In fact, the tales, the confessions, and the astutely deployed gossip are all part of that art.) This is a skill often derided but disastrously beyond the reach of figures ranging from politicians to fictional characters. Going There is a master class in likability, the careful balance of self-deprecation, identifiable yearnings, and chipper indomitability. When Couric describes having a C-section under local anesthetic and hearing 'the squishing sound of the surgeon pushing my bladder and intestines aside so he could get to the baby,' the effect is one of startling intimacy, as if the reader were in the operating room with her. She really seems to be fulfilling the promise in her prologue of delivering, in this book, 'the whole me.'" Miller adds: "For 500-plus pages, Going There dishes out anecdotes, funny or chilling, that resemble scenes from Lifetime movies. The seemingly perfect nanny who became obsessed with Couric. The co-op board that refused to renew her sublease when her husband was dying. The time the head of NBC told her to buy a Chanel suit in Paris on the network’s dime. The day her daughter ate too many churros at Disneyland and got diarrhea in the car. The dashing boyfriend who came on strong then turned cold. Even when the underlying circumstances set these stories well out of the sphere of the ordinary (as a Today host, Couric could afford her own Chanel suit and that boyfriend owned the San Diego Padres), Couric expertly casts them as the delights and travails of an average middle-class woman. She made a point, she explains, of buying her on-air clothes from Ann Taylor and similar retailers patronized by such women. That last item may be the most telling revelation in Going There. The book absolutely convinced me that it was delivering the real Katie Couric, unvarnished and unpretentious, someone I could well imagine befriending. Whether that’s just another outfit that Couric can shed at will is something I’ll never know."

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    • It was that smile — all gums and small teeth — that helped determine Katie Couric's trajectory in the male-dominated world of television: "The smile was her trademark, her winning, telegenic draw," says Rebecca Traister. "When she first took over at Today, her reputation for buoyancy was so vast that The New Yorker ran a cartoon of morose Eeyore in a full grin, with the caption 'Katie Couric will do that to you.' It helped her connect to people but also put her in a kind of box — the literal television box, yes, and a box of one-dimensional expectations. The smile conveyed her relatability and girl-next-door-ness, her vulnerability and good cheer, which was how Americans liked their news delivered over their cup of coffee, warm and cozy. They liked it less in other contexts. Couric departed Today in 2006 for the storied CBS News division, where she became the first solo female host of a nightly news broadcast and a correspondent for 60 Minutes. It didn’t go well. She writes about her five years at CBS with residual anger at some of the men she felt never took her seriously and did not want her to succeed, especially 60 Minutes’ Jeff Fager, who, like so many of the male colleagues she worked with across networks, has since lost his job after reported allegations of sexual impropriety."
    • Katie Couric's memoir recounting her famous interview with Sarah Palin offers some great interviewing lessons: "Sometimes being first doesn't matter. Couric, struggling at the CBS Evening News, was third in line, behind other anchors. No one remembers those other two interviews," says The New York Times' Jodi Kantor. "Couric prepped like hell. 'We inhaled everything that had ever been written about Palin,' she writes. Go in with a strategy. Couric could have tried to humiliate Palin with a pop quiz on complex world affairs. Instead she went with Madeleine Albright's advice: 'Just let her talk.' More neutral-- yet ultimately more deadly. This has been said so many times, but it's still hard to do: resist the urge to fill dead air. 'I made a mental note to avoid jumping in, no matter how awkward the silences,' Couric writes. This, from Couric, is just smart and self aware: 'I was also aware that my performance would be scrutinized almost as much as hers... so I decided I would remain as expressionless as possible.' As Palin began to fall apart in the interview, Couric felt sorry for her, but kept pressing. She had to. 'If elected, John McCain, who'd been treated for melanoma four times, would be the oldest president in history.' Sometimes the simplest questions are the best. Couric asked Palin what newspapers she reads. Palin wouldn't answer."
    • Toward the end of Going There, Couric laments with self-awareness that it’s sad not to be the It girl anymore: "But the insights in her memoir illustrate how the ways in which she saw the world — including the limitations — allowed her to hold that position for so many people for so long," says Alessa Dominguez, noting that "Couric tracks how, as her professional trajectory soared, public opinion of her soured. By the early aughts, her salary was $65 million; she was battling for guest bookings with Diane Sawyer, losing relatability, and being dismissed in the tabloids and press as a 'diva.'"
    • Here are 10 brutally honest anecdotes Couric reveals in Going There

    TOPICS: Katie Couric, TV Books




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