Why ‘Today Show’ Alum Katie Couric Hated Being Called ‘Perky’

Katie Couric shot to fame when she became co-anchor of the Today Show in 1991. A seasoned journalist and hard-hitting news person, Couric revealed she was never crazy about the “perky” moniker she was given soon after she arrived at the NBC news desk.

Katie Couric attends The 2020 MAKERS Conference
Katie Couric | Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS

Katie Couric became a top journalist on the ‘Today Show’

Couric manned the news desk alongside Bryant Gumbel in 1991, and later with Matt Lauer when Gumbel left the Today Show. Winning over audiences with her bubbly personality, Couric later commented on how that would work against her at times.

“I think what I experienced was more subtle, more feeling marginalized or [women] not getting credit for being as smart as we are,” she told Hemispheres Magazine in 2018 of women’s challenges in the workplace. “I think that manifests itself for people in leadership positions, that somehow we’re less intelligent or less capable. It’s also hard for people to see you as a multifaceted person that you can be funny, fun, outgoing, and friendly, but that doesn’t mean you’re vapid.”

Often labeled as “perky”, the Today alum never warmed to the adjective and saw it as a put-down.

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“That’s why I hated the word perky, because I thought the connotation was that you were an airhead, that there wasn’t a serious side to you,” Couric revealed. “But people have a lot of different sides, and people often make judgments based on the wrong things.”

‘Today’ alum Katie Couric balanced likability and getting the story

The former Today star noted the balance between being accepted by viewers while still being able to ask the tough questions on the air.

“Being liked was more important to my career when I was anchoring The Today Show,” she said in 2018, according to InStyle. “It’s a very tricky, fine line to navigate, because I think they want someone who’s a strong journalist, who asks the right questions, and can challenge someone when necessary. But it’s hard because sometimes people who see that feel uncomfortable with confrontation.”

Couric recalled a sit-down with a controversial figure, where she wasn’t sure how audiences would receive her bold approach.

“I remember I did a very challenging interview with David Duke, the white supremacist,” she remarked. “I think it was uncomfortable for viewers who saw me as this all-American girl next door to suddenly see me taking David Duke to task, even if they found his views repugnant. All I could do was be my authentic self and hope that people could see that there are many sides to me, like everyone else.”

Katie Couric prefers being ‘multi-dimensional’

After leaving the Today Show in 2006, Couric went on to be the first female anchor of the CBS Evening News. She also hosted her own talk show, served as global anchor of Yahoo! News, and is scheduled to guest host Jeopardy! The former NBC news person explained the importance of being authentic despite any lingering stereotypes.

“I think that in journalism, as in many other fields, people tend to put you into a box, but we’re all multi-dimensional,” Couric said. “I’ve had to work hard to ensure that people understand that I can be warm and friendly but also thoughtful and intelligent.”

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Now with her own media company in addition to her other ventures, Couric has learned to stay true to herself.

“Sometimes those things can seem incongruous,” she commented. “That has always been challenging for me, but I’ve overcome it.”