8″ x 9″ Signed in 1996 at Rockefeller Center, New York, NY
Television journalist. Born Katherine Anne Couric, on January 7, 1957, in Arlington, Virginia. The youngest of four children of John, now a retired journalist and public relations executive, and his wife Elinor, Couric graduated from the University of Virginia in 1979 with a degree in American Studies. Just after college, she moved to Washington, D.C., to begin a career in television news reporting.
Couric’s first job was as a desk assistant at ABC, where she worked under anchorman Sam Donaldson, among others. Shortly thereafter, she began working at the Washington bureau of the fledgling Cable News Network (CNN). For the next seven years, Couric worked at CNN bureaus around the country as a producer and, when she could, as an on-air reporter. In 1987, she returned to Washington and took a job as a reporter at an NBC affiliate station there.
In 1988, shortly before her marriage to Jay Monahan, a lawyer based in Washington, Couric was hired as the number-two reporter at the Pentagon for the Washington bureau of NBC News. Over the next three years, she covered the U.S. invasion of Panama and the Persian Gulf War in her Pentagon position as well as a newly-created post at NBC’s morning newsmagazine, Today. By early 1991, she had begun filling in as coanchor of Today (alongside Bryant Gumbel) when Deborah Norville went on maternity leave. In April, NBC executives hired Couric to replace Norville, who had been blamed by some for the show’s falling ratings.
Couric was an instant hit with viewers, who related well to her pleasant, charming demeanor and her surprisingly hard-hitting journalistic style. During her early years on Today, she conducted many sought-after interviews with individuals such as First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Anita Hill, George Bush, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell, and Jerry Seinfeld. Her comfortable on-screen rapport with Gumbel (although the two were famously contentious off-camera) proved the key to the show’s growing popularity, and in 1993 Today surpassed ABC’s Good Morning America in the ratings to regain its position as the most-watched morning newsmagazine in the country.
Beginning in the summer of 1993, Couric also cohosted another prime-time newsmagazine, Now, with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric. It was eventually absorbed into the more popular program Dateline, and Couric continued her duties on Today, which continued to solidify its hold on the top spot in the Nielsen ratings and expand the definition of a morning news program. For her part, Couric had become the undisputed star of morning television. In early 1997, Gumbel left Today after 15 years. (He now anchors the CBS morning newsmagazine The Early Show with Jane Clayson.) He was replaced with Matt Lauer, who had served as the show’s news anchor since 1994.
Couric’s incredible success with Today continued throughout the 1990s. In the summer of 1998, she signed a four-year contract extension with NBC for $28 million. Her $7 million yearly salary elevated her into the ranks of the top personalities in TV news, including prime-time anchors Diane Sawyer, Brokaw, and Dan Rather. That same year, however, Couric faced profound tragedy in her personal life: Monahan, then a legal analyst with NBC News, died in January 1998 after a six-month battle with colon cancer. He was 42.
In the years since her husband’s untimely death, Couric mounted an aggressive campaign to raise money for research and testing in order to fight colon cancer. As part of her efforts, Couric masterminded two weeklong television series to raise awareness of the disease, even undergoing an on-air colonoscopy herself in order to impress upon viewers the importance of testing. By the end of 2000, her campaign had raised more than $10 million.
In 2000, Couric published a children’s book, The Brand New Kid, which topped the New York Times children’s-picture-book bestseller list for three weeks. She and her two daughters with Monahan, Elinor and Caroline, live in New York City. Couric is currently dating the successful Hollywood producer Tom Werner (coproducer of such hit shows as The Cosby Show, Roseanne, and 3rd Rock From the Sun).
In January 2002, Couric signed a new contract with NBC for a reported $65 million over four and a half years, which allows her to stay at the helm of Today as well as explore other possibilities at the network. The deal made Couric the world’s highest paid TV personality.