Katie Couric has not said publicly what her next step will be after her final day as CBS Evening News anchor next week, but she can always fall back on her second career—bestselling author.
She talked about her newest book Thursday night at a dinner in Manhattan sponsored by Credit Suisse and The Newsweek Daily Beast Company and hosted by Tina Brown, editor in chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast. In The Best Advice I Ever Got, Couric reports on the crucial wisdom that helped the likes of Mario Batali, Steven Spielberg, and Meryl Streep. And Couric even dished out a bit of advice of her own.
“Change is scary, even positive change. I’ve learned that you have to control your own destiny,” she said. “You can’t necessarily move mountains. You can’t let external voices define who you are.”
“It sounds like playing the gender card, but it’s true: People still aren’t comfortable with women in positions of power and authority, and that’s because we haven’t been there enough.”
In the wide-ranging conversation, Couric reflected on the challenges she faced during her groundbreaking spell on the CBS Evening News, starting in 2006, during which she was the first female anchor to host a solo newscast. “It sounds like playing the gender card, but it’s true: People still aren’t comfortable with women in positions of power and authority, and that’s because we haven’t been there enough,” she said, with Brown noting that Diane Sawyer’s smooth transition into the anchor’s chair at ABC World News showed how much the terrain had changed since Couric made the leap.
Couric didn’t reveal where she’s headed next, a topic that’s been the subject of frequent speculation since she announced her departure from the Evening News. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to check my Google Alert on Katie Couric to see if anything had changed for tonight,” Brown quipped. But Couric did say she’s interested in a show that will allow her more flexibility than the nightly headlines, saying she feels confident she’s already proved she has the chops to be a newsreader. “I like to deconstruct complicated topics,” she said. “I would like to have a show that allows me to have conversations.”
That doesn’t mean her work over the last five years hasn’t been fulfilling—especially the frantic rush of news in the early months of 2011, from the Tucson shooting to Osama bin Laden’s death. “It’s been busy. To cover a story like Gabby Giffords is so upsetting, but your adrenaline gets you pumped up,” Couric said. Her favorite story, however, was the Arab Spring, which Couric traveled to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to cover. And Couric also shed some light on her landmark interview with then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The fateful questions weren’t intended to be “gotchas,” she explained; she asked what Palin read off the cuff, out of genuine curiosity.
Katie Couric interviews Sarah Palin
The Best Advice I Ever Got, proceeds from which will benefit Scholarship America, grew out of a commencement speech Couric delivered at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, for which she thought to solicit anecdotes from high-profile figures from Sheryl Crow to Queen Rania of Jordan. As they filtered out of dinner Thursday night, a few guests offered their own stories of the best advice they ever got.
In kinship with Couric, who emphasized the importance of having a thick skin, author Salman Rushdie recounted something the writer Angela Carter once told him. “She always felt she was up against the establishment, and she said, ‘F--- the lot of them!’” he said, grinning impishly. “I’ve always followed that.”
Sony CEO Howard Stringer, who previously led CBS, said he’d been told to live in the present: “Never worry about the next job. Do the one you have better than anyone else.” And Rony Shimony, a cardiologist, said he’d learned a simple but important lesson from Carl Sagan. “We’ve all got to learn to get along,” he said. “We just have to work together.”
David Graham is a reporter for Newsweek covering politics, national affairs, and business. His writing has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The National in Abu Dhabi.