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Women Bisnow
June 11, 2008


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

We were on hand yesterday as Katie Couric accepted the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum’s Alice Award (named for Suffragist Alice Paul), for “breaking barriers” on behalf of women. The Capital Hill site devoted to the history of the women’s rights movement made an apt locale for Couric to tell a crowd of 250 of her own rise to the top, which she assured was not meteoric. She recalled a meeting early in her career in which a businessman said, “Katie’s successful because she’s hard-working, industrious, and because of her breast size.” Explained Couric: “That was before executives discovered that harass was not two words.”


As an assignment editor at CNN, the Arlington native received a call from the network president saying he never wanted to see her again. “He was the first in a long line of naysayers who miraculously discovered me when I was a success,” Couric said. Her recognition came after four years in Florida mastering a day-to-day deadline, after which she came home to work with WRC-TV (NBC 4). Her coverage of Marion Barry drew the attention of Tim Russert, who asked Couric if she’d like to serve as Deputy Pentagon Correspondent for NBC. It was 1989 and the Persian Gulf War became her “journalistic battleground.” She moved to NBC on April 4th, 1991. “I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter Ellie. I woke up, threw up, and went to work.”


Couric and friend Laurie Powers. Couric is active in the fight against colon cancer. Her husband, Jay Monahan, died of the disease in 1998 at the age of 42. “When I grow up, I want to be just like Katie,” says Powers. I support her in everything she does. My father also died of colon cancer.”


Couric stayed with NBC until 2006 and spoke nostalgically about her stay there. “Who else can say that they interviewed Howard Stern and Yasser Arafat on the same day? But when first female solo-anchor on CBS came up, I had to give it a try. It’s been two years full of challenges, but like Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘women are like teabags, you never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.’”


To Couric, one such woman is Hillary Clinton. Couric spoke resolutely about the coverage the former first lady received in her presidential campaign. “I believe that Senator Clinton received some of the most unbalanced coverage I’ve ever seen. Seemingly objective journalists mocked Hillary the nutcracker. A female anchor said she looked 92 and would scare away independent voters. I’m concerned about the increasing misogyny and the objectification of women.”


Even in 101 degree heat, Couric finds the energy for a laugh. Her parents and friends, including the afternoon’s emcee WRC’s Barbara Harrison, came out to honor her.


For the Washington crowd, Couric stayed on the matter of politics. When asked “What book besides the Bible will you bring to the White House?” by Couric, McCain answered Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, to which Couric pointed out he would need it based on the current economy. Obama said he would bring Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. Couric didn’t mention what tome she might tote along from CBS if the rumors of a departure before her contract expires in 2011 are true. But based on the outpouring of affection from yesterday’s crowd, Couric’s team of rivals were nowhere to be found.

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