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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 29, 2024

Couric discusses new media in journalism

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric at yesterday's sixth−annual Edward R. Murrow Forum on Issues in Journalism said that the expansion of social media has greatly increased the reach and impact of her work.

"Things live on in perpetuity on the Internet … A lot of the interviews I've done are online; that's allowed people to share it and view it, repeatedly in some cases — certainly that added to the impact of the interview had it just run alone on the CBS Evening News," Couric said, referring to her interviews with then−Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, which were widely believed to have changed the 2008 electoral landscape.

The forum was jointly sponsored by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, the Communications and Media Studies (CMS) Program and the Edward R. Murrow Center for the Study of Public Diplomacy.

Couric, who also spent 15 years as co−anchor of NBC's "Today" show, also cautioned the audience at the packed Cabot Auditorium not to let the time pressures of social media compromise reporting standards.

"I think there are dangers. It's a relatively new instrument, it's incredible — I marvel at what you can do with this new technology — but I think that sometimes, our values don't keep pace with this immediacy," she said. "We have to be respectful of this incredibly powerful tool and learn how best to use it, and in some ways we still have our training wheels on."

Jonathan Tisch (A '76), benefactor of the namesake Tisch College and current co−chairman of the Board of the Loews Corporation, participated in the forum as Couric's interviewer.

The forum, now in its sixth year, brings together panelists to discuss the legacy of renowned broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow in relation to contemporary journalism.

Murrow set the standards for pioneering reporting and is credited for his role in exposing the questionable practices of then−Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Past speakers at the forum have included former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw and MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews.

Couric said that social media have enabled her to connect with her audience in a more interactive process.

"I like being connected to viewers, to the people who are watching and who are engaged in the world around them," she said. "Things like Facebook and Twitter have given me space to have conversations — find out the things people care about, their concerns."

Couric earlier in the day also participated in a book signing at the bookstore for her new book, which was officially released today. "The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives" is a compilation of insight from prominent figures she has interviewed.

The idea for the book was born out of Couric's experience speaking to university students — she has spoken at about 10 commencement ceremonies, she said. The book compiles 116 contributions, including one from Michelle Kwan, who was in the audience. Proceeds from the book will go toward Scholarship America.

"There's so much snarkiness and cynicism out there, it's nice to read something that's just sincere and honest," Couric said. "There's some very consistent themes in the lives of successful people, like being able to deal with failure … [and] the importance of making an imprint on the wider world."

Tisch asked Couric to provide the audience with the best advice that she had ever been given.

"‘To thine own self be true' is something I tell people and something I remind myself," she responded. "There's a lot of noise out there passing judgment, telling you what to do … I try to encourage people to listen to their inner heart."

Tisch noted that Couric's reporting has brought her to the heart of many difficult situations and asked how she balances personal safety with quality reporting.

"I take my responsibility very seriously and try to be on the scene because I think being a first−hand witness to history is irreplaceable," she said, citing her decision to report live from the scene during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the February protests in Egypt. "At the same time, because I am a single parent, I try to be careful about the decisions that I make … I don't want my daughters to be orphans."

Couric cited reporting in Egypt during the February revolution — especially when then−President Hosni Mubarak made a public announcement refusing to step down — as a time when she has been most fearful.

"Tahrir Square just turned on a dime into a very frightening scene; check points were set up," Couric said. "That drive from the hotel to the airport was one of the scariest drives of my life. You just didn't know what was going to happen. A lot of reporters were being abused, photographers were getting roughed up. This mob mentality was a very frightening thing to experience; we didn't know what to expect."

In light of recent speculation about what Couric will do when her contract with CBS ends in June, Tisch asked Couric about her future career plans. Several media outlets have speculated that she will be parting ways with the network, possibly to start her own syndicated talk show with the "Today" show's current co−anchor, Matt Lauer.

"I honestly don't know; I'm figuring out what I'm doing, looking at my options," Couric said. "Matt and I are very good friends … The speculation is interesting … but he's got a job, and I'm going to figure out what I'm going to do."