“Going There,” as she calls the Epic of Couric, might as well be subtitled “Owning This,” starting with rattlesome family skeletons: subdued Judaism on one side, “blighted with racists” on the other. Her paternal grandmother, Wilde, gave Couric’s father a first edition of “The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan” inscribed: “This is such a valuable and beautiful book. Never destroy it.” (It was discovered in his study by a horrified great-granddaughter.) Then there is Couric’s first husband, Jay Monahan, whose bugle-blowing passion for Confederacy re-enactments Couric once saw as “a benign hobby” — throwing him an Old South-themed 40th birthday bash complete with a Scarlett O’Hara Barbie doll atop the cake — but now finds queasy-making, even as she continues to mourn his death from colon cancer at 42.
Failing to visit Black schoolmates’ houses in her “de facto segregated” childhood suburb? Attending, however uncomfortably, a University of Virginia fraternity party with waiters in blackface as an undergrad? Devoting hours of “Today” to white victims rather than acknowledging institutional racism? Ms. Couric regrets. She squirms, cringes and is mortified about her “cluelessness, born of intractable white privilege.” She agonizes over having withheld part of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s rambly scold of the football star Colin Kaepernick’s protests. (“Clearly, this was a blind spot for Ginsburg, and I wanted to protect her.”) Maybe journalistic objectivity isn’t all it was cracked up to be?
The patriarchy proves harder to denounce. Soon after our heroine, modeling herself after the fictional Mary Richards, burst into the business as a 22-year-old assistant, a midlife Sam Donaldson leapt atop a desk to serenade her with a World War I song (“K-K-K-Katy, beautiful Katy”). Larry King made advances after poached veal (“The lunge. The tongue. The hands.”). Years later, Les Moonves, “a close-talker with bad breath,” lured her into being the first woman to anchor the “CBS Evening News” solo, “massaging my e-spot (as in ego) so expertly” on the sofa of his Park Avenue apartment. Like Richards, Couric turned the world on with her smile and clearly benefited from the not-always-appropriate attentions of powerful men. In such an environment, she confesses, when “someone younger and cuter was always around the corner,” mentoring female correspondents “sometimes felt like self-sabotage.”
Katie’s story is one of busting through the doors of a boys’ club whose members greet each other “heyyyyy, budddddddy” — not burning that club down. (The bluestocking Katherine might have dared.) Of sex and the newsroom, her attitude is basically that was the way it was, to paraphrase her avuncular idol Walter Cronkite. Being characterized as “perky” perturbed her, but having dollops of “moxie” was just fine.