In honor of the TODAY Show’s 70th anniversary, Katie’s sharing the moment she first learned she’d landed the job as co-anchor of the iconic news program. Read this excerpt from her memoir, Going There, about that life-changing moment — and how she negotiated to get more air time.
“In early March 1991, I was summoned to the office of Michael Gartner, president of NBC News. The bow-tied former editor of the Des Moines Register had a no-nonsense Midwestern style that may have been better suited to River City than 30 Rock. After exchanging pleasantries, he looked me in the eye and changed my life with these words: “I’d like you to replace Deborah on the TODAY show.”
It may not have been a total surprise, but still, it was an out-of-body experience. All the naysayers in my career flashed before my eyes.
“Wow,” I said. Holy crap, I thought.
And then suddenly — I don’t know where it came from — I channeled my inner Helen Reddy and said, “I’m really only interested in this job if Bryant and I split the big interviews 50/50. I don’t want to be relegated to cooking segments and fashion shows.”
It always struck me how Jane Pauley took a back seat to Bryant. Why was he so clearly in charge of the show when she’d been there longer? I was keenly aware of how the media — TV shows, ads, billboards, magazine covers — conditions us to see gender roles in a certain way. It’s where the seeds of implicit bias are sown. I realized how something as seemingly benign as a morning show could shape the perception of what a woman could do and be.
After some deliberation, Gartner said, “How about 49/51?”
Close enough — I’d made my point.
“Okay,” I said. “Oh, I almost forgot. I’m pregnant.”
“So I guess you’re not going to be knitting me baby booties anytime soon,” I shot back with a smile.
Ultimately, Bryant would have it written into his contract that he was the anchor, I was the co-anchor, and he would open every show. It was strangely territorial to me, but I could live with it. The bottom line: I was going to be a key part of this broadcast.
Gartner bowed his head like a man who’d been played. “You have really lousy timing,” he said.
Want to see a retro clip of Katie’s very first day? Look no further: