— Newswoman Katie Couric is weathering a storm of speculation about her career plans, but in a homecoming on TODAY Wednesday, she said she has not ruled out options like staying on as news anchor with “CBS Evening News” or launching her own syndicated talk show.
While Couric, co-host of TODAY from 1991 to 2006, told TODAY’s Matt Lauer that she “doesn’t love” being the focus of seemingly endless stories about her future, she refuses to be pressured into making an announcement about what she will do when her CBS contract ends in early June.
“I don’t want to feel pressured by outside sources to make a decision quickly,” the 54-year-old Couric said. But Lauer, who sat alongside Couric on TODAY from 1997 to 2006, wondered aloud if Couric might have already made up her mind.
“I know you very well and I know the business pretty well,” Lauer told his old partner. “You’ve only got a number of weeks left on your contract; is it fair for me to assume you’ve made the decision, but you’ve yet to discuss openly the decision?”
“No, I really haven’t,” Couric replied. “I’m in the middle of figuring it out, figuring out where would be the best place for me, what would be the best job for me.”
She added that the possibility of continuing as anchor with “CBS Evening News” remains on the table.
“I love doing my job at the ‘CBS Evening News,’ I really do,” she said.
News reports have speculated that Couric will launch her own talk show, and on TODAY Couric talked positively about the possibility.
“I think what might appeal to me is just the creative freedom to pick subjects, to really dig deep, to have a smart, intelligent conversation,” she told Lauer. “I think the opportunity to really roll up your sleeves, to dig into subjects, would be appealing.” And she noted that while her former partner Lauer knows the full, often-playful facets of her personality, the rest of America may not.
“You know me, Matt — I’m like, ‘Wah!’ ” Couric said with a laugh. “That’s the kind of person I am. So it might be nice to have a little more wiggle room to show my personality.”
Lauer told Couric he believes the clock’s ticking while she makes up her mind, and the more she puts off her decision, “the more time is being taken away and space is being taken away from important things like Charlie Sheen.”
Couric chuckled and said, “I need to give the headlines back to Charlie; I feel really bad about that.”
Although the ratings have held steady for “CBS Evening News” during Couric’s five-year run, the program has stayed in its third-place position behind NBC’s and ABC’s evening news programs. To boot, Couric faced an avalanche of nit-picking as the first female solo evening news anchor, ranging from the tone of her delivery to how much leg she showed on camera.
Couric admitted that she “faced a lot of criticism early on,” but soldiered forward. “I think I’ve learned you really have to be true to yourself, focus on your work and not be influenced by outside naysayers or in some cases, supporters,” she told Lauer. “You just focus on the job at hand and, as my dad always told me, do the best you can every single day.”
And while Couric ponders her job future, she’s also branched out in the publishing world with her new book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got.” The book contains essays Couric compiled from the likes of President Bill Clinton, TV personalities Jimmy Kimmel, Ryan Seacrest and Tyra Banks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and TODAY’s Lauer and Al Roker.
Couric told Lauer the genesis of the book came when she was asked to deliver the commencement address at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio last year. “I got tired, believe it or not, talking about myself, so I thought, you know, I’m going to reach out to some of the people I’ve interviewed through the years and see what would they tell these young kids,” she said.
“I realized, wow, they gave me these incredible, moving, or funny, or interesting or inspiring things to say, and I thought, wouldn’t this make a great collection?”
Read an excerpt from Katie Couric’s new book “The Best Advice I Ever Got” here.