Katie Couric was in Raleigh today to film promos at WTVD for her new talk show, "Katie," which debuts on September 10.
WTVD hosted a breakfast for Couric at Oro in downtown Raleigh, where Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane (who went to high school with Katie at Yorktown High in Arlington, Va.) proclaimed July 18 "Katie Couric Day" in the capital city. (If I'm not mistaken, TV writers get to take that as a holiday next year.)
Couric, introduced by WTVD anchor Larry Stogner, described her new show as being "smart with heart," and said she hopes the program fills part of the void left by Oprah Winfrey's departure from daytime.
We got a few minutes with Couric to talk about her new show, which will broadcast live from New York each weekday at 2 p.m. and then air here in the Triangle at 3 p.m. on WTVD (KatieCouric.com has more details). The former "Today" show co-anchor also gave us some of her thoughts on the current morning television battles.
Q: You're obviously used to working live, but have you ever worked before an audience before? How do you think you'll adjust to that?
K: You know, the closest I've been with an audience was at the "Today" show when we had the people on the Plaza. And I loved having them sort of in the background and interacting with them when we went outside. So I feel like I have a little sense of working with a studio audience. It will be a new thing, but I've also been on a lot of talk shows myself as a guest, so I think I've gotten comfortable in that sort of format, whether it's on "Letterman" or "Jay Leno" or "The View" . . . so I'm excited because I've always enjoyed actually having a real person to look at instead of just a camera lens.
Q: Will you interact with the audience?
K: Yes. I mean, I think it will depend on the subject for the day, but I want to interact with the audience. I want to make it a fun experience for them. I think we're still sort of figuring all that out. It's not going to be one set thing, it will evolve. I'm finding -- and hopefully it's the right way to go -- you try things and see what makes you feel comfortable. We're doing a lot of test shows in August, and I think just getting out in the studio and having an audience in front of me, I'll start to understand what feels natural for me.
Q: How will you differentiate yourself from other afternoon shows, like "Ellen" and "Anderson?"
K: I think "Ellen" is a much lighter show than the show I'm going to do. I guess the biggest differentiation is I'm doing it, you know? I think everybody's different and has a different approach and a different sensibility and different life experiences. I'm not going to be talking about myself ad nauseam, but I think a lot of the subjects we're dealing with, I'll be able to relate to. Whether it's parenting or dealing with the teenage brain or taking care of an aging parent, finding love after loss, dealing with grief, understanding cancer . . . It's not all going to be an extension of my own personal experiences, but I think a lot of the things we're going to be talking about, I'll be able to have a deeper understanding because of some of the things I've been through. And I think I have a natural curiosity and hopefully, some kind of skill set when it comes to interviewing people that will make it a richer experience for the viewer.
Q: How do you think afternoon television is different from morning television?
K: I think in morning television, you're doing a million things and you're almost listening as much as watching. I think it's very short spurts. I hope in the afternoon, people will take a break, or they're likely to be on another screen doing something else, but I hope they'll be receptive to longer, more substantive conversations with people. We'll see. But I think in morning television there was so much pressure to do 'quick! quick! quick! quick!' because people were running around and attention spans weren't that long and people didn't have time to actually sit and take something in. And that was frustrating for me, to have to do a complicated topic in four minutes. I was always playing 'Beat the Clock.' And here, we can let someone breathe on a subject, really examine it from different perspectives without feeling like you've got to 'hurry hurry hurry hurry.' Because at some point, I think it was a very limited return on your investment if you're truncating things so much that you're not able to actually even impart the information you need to.
Q: Who are some of the big "gets" you'd like to have?
K: Well, if I told you, I'd have to kill you. . . . [laughs] . . . Obviously, I'd like to interview Amanda Knox at some point. Arnold Schwarzeneggar has a book coming out. I'm not sure we're the audience for him, but I'd love to talk to him. We have a lot of people who've become newsmakers that we're interested in talking to. And celebrities who we think have something more to offer than a quick soundbite about their latest movie or album. Do they even call them albums anymore? So, you know, there are a lot of big names we'd like to invite on the show and we're pursuing. But also, a lot of important issues and topics, like the ones I mentioned.
Q: Since "Katie" is debuting in the middle of the election season, do you plan to do any political interviews?
K: I'm hoping that the Obamas will come on and that the Romneys will come on. It's not going to be heavy duty politics. We're not going to be debating whether Mitt Romney should make his tax returns public. You can turn on 27 other channels to hear that. But there might be something about campaign commercials and the psychology behind them. I would say more sidebar political stories, but I don't think it's going to be heavy duty politics.
Q: What do you think about "Good Morning America's" recent ratings gains on the "Today" show?
K: Well, I have divided loyalties because I've gotten to know the folks on GMA and they're great, but I also spent 15 years on the "Today" show and I've always been so proud of what we were able to accomplish on that program. So, obviously I'm at ABC so I'm cheering GMA on, but I don't like to see my friends struggling and going through difficult transitions, like they just did. And Matt [Lauer] and I are still very good friends. And a lot of the producers there I'm still very friendly with, and I love Al [Roker]. So it's tough. And hopefully the competition, to be honest with you, will make everyone better. Because I think it's easy to rest on your laurels. I think when you're at number one for so long you start to get a little complacent. And I think one of the important things about these shows is that to stay on top, they require constant innovation and I feel like the "Today" show needs to innovate a little bit more, to be honest with you. And I think both of them need to do more serious stories and be a little less tabloid.
Q: Do you think Savannah Guthrie will do a good job at "Today?"
K: I think so, I like her. I think she's good. I think for the "Today" show, it's more than just the people on camera. I think sort of the pacing of the show and the content of the show needs calibrating, in my opinion.
Photos by Adrienne Johnson of The News & Observer