When Katie Couric was a fledgling 23-year-old producer at CNN, the head of the network told her she didn’t have the “ gravitas” for TV news. Three decades later, America’s Sweetheart has proved him wrong and then some. Thursday, Couric signs off of CBS Evening News after five years in the anchor's chair.
In late April, the 54-year-old journalist announced in an interview with People magazine that she was stepping down in search of a more “multi-dimensional storytelling” platform. She has been in talks with ABC News for a potential daytime talk show.
Video Gallery: Highlights of Katie Couric at CBS
Couric gained celebrity as a substitute co-host, then subsequent co-anchor, of Today in 1991. Her stint on the show, and famous pairing with Matt Lauer, ended in 2006 when she left NBC for CBS Evening News. It was a historic move: Couric was the first solo woman anchor of a major network news show, as well as the highest-paid, inking a deal for $15 million per year.
While some critics skewered CBS Evening News for failing to live up to the hype, it also garnered accolades. The show won back-to-back Murrow Awards for best newscast in 2008 and 2009. And it made a splash when then-GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin sat down with Couric in 2008 and gave an interview that shook public perception of the politician (while minting indelible jokes about Alaska’s proximity to Russia). The interviews earned Couric the Walter Cronkite Award and, in the words of the judges, were "a defining moment in the 2008 presidential campaign."
Couric’s versatility as a morning-show host-cum-evening-news anchor enabled her to tackle interviews of gravity, such as a sitdown with John Edwards after his wife’s cancer diagnosis, as well as lighter fare like her bowling adventure with rapper Lil Wayne. She was the first network anchor on the ground when Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was devastated by an earthquake, and she reported from Egypt’s Tahrir Square as revolution erupted there this year.
Perhaps, as Rolling Stone said of her tenure as news anchor, “Couric is too much of a modern TV star to look comfortable in such an archaic role.” The “perky” host learned to deal with criticism, as she writes in her book The Best Advice I Ever Got, by wearing her “ big-girl pants.” No matter where the Couric goes next, like she said in a tweet from May 13, as this chapter closes, there is “much to be proud of.”
Sujay Kumar works at The Daily Beast. He's written for MTV Splash Page and The Daily Illini.