Also Credited As:Katherine Anne Couric
|Katherine Anne Couric on January 7, 1957 in Arlington, Virginia, USA|
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Katherine Anne Couric was born on Jan. 7, 1957, in Arlington, VA. Her father, John Couric, was a newspaper editor in Washington D.C., perhaps paving a career path for his daughter, who seemed likely to follow in his footsteps with her editorial work on the campus newspaper at the University of Virginia. She graduated with honors and a Bachelors degree in English in 1979 and immediately began her journalism career by landing a job as a desk assistant at ABC News in Washington, D.C. Moving on to Ted Turner's fledgling CNN in 1980, she rose through the news ranks from assignment editor to associate producer before eventually becoming an on-air political correspondent for the 1984 presidential election race.
After five years covering local news as a general assignment reporter for WTVJ in Miami and WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., Couric's career got a boost when she was invited to join NBC's national news team as deputy Pentagon correspondent in 1989. A year later, she became the national correspondent for "Today," where she also began to fill in as a co-anchor. When co-host Deborah Norville left the program in 1991, Couric settled permanently into the seat next to Bryant Gumbel. Her perky sensibility balanced out the morning news and lifestyle program and helped bring the sagging "Today" show back from Nielsen purgatory, after the ratings had dipped following the departure of longtime host Jane Pauley and arrival of her less-than-successful replacement, Norville. It seemed Couric was exactly what morning viewers were looking for to help them start their day.
A rapidly rising star on NBC news, Couric was soon tapped for frothy jobs like hosting the annual telecast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, but she was eventually given more prestigious responsibilities such as co-hosting the short-lived primetime news magazine "Now With Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric" (NBC, 1993-94). Couric subsequently became a contributing editor to another primetime news magazine, "Dateline NBC," (1992- ), and hosted news specials, including the hard-hitting "Everybody's Business: America's Children" (1995). Couric's celebrity was confirmed by cameo appearances as herself on other television programs such as "Murphy Brown" (CBS, 1988-1998), "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006) and by the national attention given her first pregnancy in 1995.
With the departure of the sometimes cantankerous Gumbel, Matt Lauer joined "Today" in 1997, and he and Couric proved to be the show's most successful team yet, with a run of nine years atop the ratings heap. The following year, a peak number of viewers witnessed Couric's struggle as her husband, lawyer and NBC legal analyst Jay Monahan, battled colon cancer for eight months, eventually losing his life. Couric subsequently became an activist on behalf of the number two cancer-killer, launching the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA) to fund new medical research and form educational programs aimed at prevention and early detection through proper screenings. She earned a Peabody Award for her segment series "Confronting Colon Cancer" and had an on-air colonoscopy, which prompted a 20 percent increase in the number of procedures - a stunt result that came to be known as "The Couric Effect."
Meanwhile, Couric continued earning well-deserved kudos for her work on "Today," especially her level-headed handling of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which occurred during the "Today" broadcast. In December 2001, Couric signed a new five-year contract with NBC worth $65 million, making her the highest paid television news personality at the time. Her re-upping with "Today" ensured that the yearly $300 million profits NBC had grown accustomed to would continue unabated. As she neared the end of that contract, rumors ran rampant that Couric might leave NBC to take over the anchor and managing editor chairs at CBS's evening news - a spot vacated by long-time newsman Dan Rather in 2004 and temporarily filled by journalist Bob Schieffer.
The rumors proved correct on April 5, 2006 - the 15th anniversary of her first day as host of "Today" - when Couric told her audience that she would step down from the program at the end of May to anchor the nightly news and also contribute to "60 Minutes" (1968- ). Some felt her "Today" stint - the longest in the show's history - was not suitable experience for such a coveted position. But her supporters quickly pointed to her extensive resume of covering major national events and interviewing presidents, world leaders and other major newsmakers.
Couric made her debut as host of "CBS Evening News" to much media fanfare on Sept. 5, 2006, when she became the first woman to solo anchor an evening newscast on a major network. In an attempt to breathe new life into the lagging news program, CBS tinkered with the show format to include longer feature interviews from Couric and more conversational asides. However, after an initial uptick in the ratings over the first few weeks, the program eventually went back to its pre-Couric low before sinking even further. Following a year and a half of low ratings, industry rumors began to circulate that cash-strapped CBS was looking to end Couric's $15 million dollar contract as early as the end of the 2008 election season.