Ex-CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, now with ABC, gave Sunday's commencement address at her alma mater, the University of Virginia. When it came to her time at CBS News, Couric cast herself as a "mistreated" "trailblazer," who got "burned" by critics.
Couric suggested her critics were motivated by sexism: "In those first few months at CBS, TV critics wrote about my clothes, my hair, my make-up, even the way I held my hands. Some said I lacked ‘gravitas,’ which I’ve since decided is Latin for ‘testicles.'"
It was a remarkably self-pitying performance for someone who made $15 million a year reading the introductions to news reports. "My story may have played out in the public eye, but it's by no means unique," Couric told the graduates. " Every one of you will at some point be confronted by naysayers and learn that life isn't always fair. You'll feel cheated, you'll be mistreated. You'll wonder, 'when will I be loved?'"
As for the idea that she was unfairly dismissed as lacking "gravitas," as MRC's Brent Baker noted at the time, her first newscast at CBS showcased her legs and hyped a "CBS News Snap Shot" segment -- a picture of Tom Cruise's baby. Not exactly the stuff of news legends.
MRC's Kyle Drennen noticed a short item about Couric's remarks on TV Newser blog; I checked out the entire speech as posted on YouTube last night by the University of Virginia.
I transcribed the portion in which Couric talks about her time at CBS News, about 20 minutes into the speech:
"The opportunity to become the first solo female anchor of a network evening newscast was hard to turn down. After all, when I started in TV news back in 1979, there were still plenty of guys who wanted to keep the broads out of broadcasting. Back then, 'harass' was considered two words, not one....
"The chance to show that a woman on her own could handle the job with intelligence and competence seemed worth the risk. But I quickly learned that getting out of your comfort zone can sometimes be, well, uncomfortable. And one of the problems with being a trailblazer is, sometimes you get burned.
"In those first few months at CBS, TV critics wrote about my clothes, my hair, my make-up, even the way I held my hands. Some said I lacked ‘gravitas,’ which I’ve since decided is Latin for ‘testicles.'
"It was a rocky start, but I remembered a note a former colleague had written to me as I was leaving NBC: Boats are always safe in the harbor, but that's not what boats are built for. I was determined to ride out the storm. I focused on the news, not the noise, and it got better.
"Five years at the CBS Evening News filled me with immense pride and a sense of accomplishment -- from covering the historic 2008 presidential election, to an award-winning series on children and the recession, to standing in Tahrir Square as the people of Egypt said no more to oppression. We were one of the first American teams on the ground in Haiti just hours after that devastating earthquake in January of 2010. I learned more about people, perspective and myself in those five years than I had in the previous 49.
"My story may have played out in the public eye, but it's by no means unique. Every one of you will at some point be confronted by naysayers and learn that life isn't always fair. You'll feel cheated, you'll be mistreated. You'll wonder, when will I be loved?'...
"That's when the third 'R,' resilience, comes in -- the ability to, as they said in the '70s, keep on keeping on, even when you'd rather pull the covers over your head, to muster up your strength and forge ahead -- even if you feel like a failure."