CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric defended her recent trip to Iraq and discussed new forms of media in front of a sold out Kalb Report crowd Wednesday night at the National Press Club.
GW Welling fellow Marvin Kalb, who hosts the public affairs series sponsored by GW, accused Couric of failing to address questions the anchor promised to answer when she finished her visit to Iraq.
“The truth of Iraq is complicated,” said Couric, who has anchored the CBS Evening News for about one year. “I don’t think spending five or six days in Iraq gives me the ability to answer those questions.”
She said the facts about Iraq can be found but are not readily accessible.
“If you seek it out, I think you can get the information you need. The question is do people really want to seek it out,” Couric said.
Couric was hired away from NBC’s “Today” last year and is the first woman to hold a primetime evening news anchor chair. She replaced Dan Rather, a CBS television mainstay, with hopes of bolstering ratings in an overly competitive timeslot.
Couric, who began her career at WRC-TV in Washington, told the Kalb Report crowd – which included her parents seated next to University President Steven Knapp – that she is an American before being a journalist.
She also rebuffed reports that she would abdicate her anchor chair after the 2008 presidential election to become a fulltime correspondent on “60 Minutes.”
Kalb brought up several questions regarding new media during the discussion. He asked Couric how she thought the old and new media would mesh and impact her nightly newscast.
“Hopefully content will still matter,” Couric said. “A lot of the information you get is some guy in his pajamas using a laptop speaking of his personal opinion.”
Kalb praised Couric for her commitment to reporting the facts in a time of widespread distrust in the media and government.
“The country is so polarized that people see an event according to their own agenda,” she said. “It’s very difficult in this day and age to find a straight-down-the -middle, ‘this is what’s happening’ kind of reporting.”
Later in the program, audience members were given the chance to ask Couric questions about how to succeed in journalism. She attributed her success and sense of self to her parents and smiled at them from the stage.
“I love what I do; it’s a really good fit for me,” she said. Couric told students in the crowd to be realistic and to realize that prospective journalists must start small. She stressed that people in the new generation should have a sense of entitlement.
“Go the extra mile,” Couric said. “You will have to miss out on a few weddings or parties to cover a story.”
Emily Kleczko, a 2007 GW graaduate, said Couric gave her insight into the life of a journalist.
“Couric does a lot of her own reporting and is not just reading what other people write about her,” she said.
Kleczko said she admires Couric for all she has accomplished in her lifetime.
“I think Couric is a role model for many people, men and women alike,” she said.
The Kalb Report has been hosted by GW for more than a decade. This year, the series is featured in the National Press Club’s Centennial Celebration and focuses on discussing the “craft” and “impact” of journalism.