The Today Show Vet, Katie Couric, Comes to Beacon Hill for a Visit

Special to the Times

Katie Couric was on Beacon Hill on Monday to have lunch with local women, to shop at Sara Campbell, to sign her best-selling book, and to dish about her life, women’s issues, health and wellness, among other topics. Couric spent more than an hour engaging in a friendly Q&A with Sara Campbell, who has known

Couric for years. Campbell told an audience who convened at her Chestnut Street store: “Go ahead, ask Katie anything!”

The conversation ranged from early stories about embarking on her media career to her current endeavors. Couric credits her father John, a journalist himself, as encouraging and mentoring her in her burgeoning news career. Couric’s summary of what her father was to her was, “He had everything.” Her father often provided prebriefs and debriefs for Couric’s news shows.

When Katie interviewed David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, her dad provided advice on how to frame her questions, and on the rare occasion when Couric misspoke grammatically, her dad corrected her on it.

As a child, Couric explained, she was an avid reader, liked to write, and was creative, outgoing, and not shy to perform. In attendance at the Beacon Hill event, Couric’s sister, Clara, known as Kiki and a local Bostonian, affirmed that Katie was not shy to perform, when asked or not, in front of family guests, including her sister’s male suitors.

When asked why her memoir is titled, “Going There,” Couric confessed that her first title choice was “Moxie,” as her father used to tell her she had that characteristic.

Little, Brown thought it was too old-fashioned a term, so “Going There” was chosen to capture a sense of honesty, having achieved a distinguished career, but still going where one needed to go. So far, it seems that Couric’s life journey does capture that theme.

Couric was asked what is important to her today, since she has already worked for CNN, for all the Big Three television networks: ABC in her early career,  co-anchoring NBC’s The Today Show,  anchoring her own CBS Evening News show, and in digital media reporting for Yahoo in its early life. Couric described her current initiative, Katie Couric Media, (“KCM”) as a multi-faceted company, designed to use Katie’s brand built over many years, using her reputation for honesty in reporting, to make a difference in people’s lives by providing straight talk to her audience to help people understand complicated issues. In a charmingly self-effacing way, Couric said she had created a brand, so why not use it to help people?

Her company is run with her husband, John Molner, and currently has thirty-five employees. KCM provides a website, Wake-Up Call news summary, podcasts, videos to disseminate information on culture, books, health, lifestyle and even shopping.

Couric highlighted her desire to make a real difference in cancer screening, mentioning her longstanding focus on cancer detection, having lived through the experience of losing her husband Jay to colon cancer at 41, as well as her sister Emily to pancreatic cancer at 54. Given Couric’s recent bout with breast cancer, she shared her concern that the government and insurers are not doing enough to screen for breast cancer beyond mammograms. She is helping to elevate the need for Federal legislation requiring standards for reporting screening on breast density and making available additional ultrasound and MRI screening for all who need it, not just those that can pay.

Bringing her latest activities back to Beacon Hill, Couric outlined her Shop initiative on the KCM website, where she has formed relationships with a variety of entrepreneurs, showcasing their products online, with a focus on women-owned businesses and other diverse entrepreneurs. Couric described a few: candle makers, shea butter producers, and of course highlighted Beacon Hill businesses, Christina Fagan’s Sh*t That I Knit, and the host of the day, Sara Campbell.

There was time in Couric’s leisurely afternoon conversation, which felt more like having a chat with a friend,  for more personal topics, including her coping with caring for a very ill husband while balancing a high profile career and two young children; how her views on life changed after her husband Jay’s passing; her comments on interoffice behavior in media organizations during her era; Matt Lauer’ downfall; and many other life observations. One quick quip Couric shared, in a moment of hesitation, is that if any of us think that losing one’s train of thought is annoying and embarrassing, think what that is like when it happens live on national television!

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