Katie Couric's Leap Year

For Katie Couric, it’s been a rough six months in the anchor chair as the first female anchor of the CBS Evening News. But she still gets her kicks from taking enormous risks in public.

By Amy Wilentz

At the end of the show, she stands in front of her desk to do the sign-off. Even though the camera cuts her off at the hips and once again deprives viewers of a look at her famously shapely legs, the new position — the new perspective — adds what Couric might call a personal touch. It makes the broadcast feel, in some small way, different. It is one of many tweaks to the show: another loosening, a minute reality check, an attempt to move out from behind the desk and in the direction of her television viewers.

On the night I watch the news from the control room, Couric has to stay afterward to do a generic introduction to the Alabama tornadoes story, in case the death toll rises later in the evening. (The death toll did rise.) After the taping, Couric chats briefly with a writer for the show; she has discarded her jacket, and her biceps, emerging from her sleeveless silk shirt, show a lot of definition. (She plays tennis often and works out on an elliptical machine at the gym in the basement of her apartment building.)

Balancing Family and Work

Her day finally ends at around eight, when she takes a car home after changing once again, from the Akris suit into her white pants and orange pullover. Her bag and coat are both beige and high quality. Somehow they do not exactly match the purple yoga mat she has tucked under one arm. She also wears a half-forgotten rubber hair band around her wrist. There’s always a detail or two about Couric that tells you she’s focused more on the activities of life than on fulfilling any image.

She lives with her two daughters in a spacious and opulently comfortable apartment in a building near Central Park. As we enter the lobby, she notices racks filled with coats and says, "Someone’s having a party, and I’m not invited. Oh, well." But she does sound a tiny bit disappointed. She checks her watch.

"Oh, I’m so late — they’re going to be starving!" she says about the girls. Her daughters spent their entire childhood on a Today show schedule and were used to having early dinners with their mother. (As everyone who watched the show knows, Couric’s husband and the girls’ father, Jay Monahan, died of colorectal cancer in 1998, when Carrie was only two years old. Ellie, the elder daughter, is now 15.) But, surprise, the girls are not clawing at the fridge when we walk in the door. Instead, Ellie is on the floor of Carrie’s bedroom with a computer on her lap.

"Why are you in here?" Couric asks. "Internet connection’s better," says Ellie, who, once introductions are made, does not look up from her screen. Carrie, meanwhile, is in her pajamas on her mother’s big bed, eating what look like brownies from a big pan and watching television. It could be an evening scene out of the house of almost any working mother in America. Except that in the kitchen, minding three small dogs — Archie, a Yorkshire terrier; Maisy, a Cairn; and Cecelia, a Havanese — is Lori Beth Meyer, the girls’ nanny, Couric’s housekeeper and, as Couric puts it bluntly, "my wife." The dogs are yipping and frolicking around Lori Beth’s ankles. Meyer, a tall, slender woman with glasses and long, blonde hair, has worked for Couric for eight years and, in spite of dealing with dogs, dinner, and a late-arriving Katie, seems completely collected.

"We try to discourage all of her relationships!" Couric says, laughing. "We always joke in our household that the girls have two mommies, that we’re a family, but a ‘different kind of family.’ But seriously, I couldn’t be me without Lori Beth. And by the way, she rules with an iron fist!"

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