A longtime Katie Couric fan writes in about a meeting 22 years ago
A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my Instagram stories when I clicked into Katie Couric’s story as I do every day and moved on to the next one. Then I did a double take, clicked back, held my finger down on my iPhone screen, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Katie had posted a picture of her and me from 22 years ago that she discovered while looking through old boxes for her memoir. “Jennifer, where are you now???” was written diagonally on top of a picture of me, an awkward eighth grader with braces, and Katie, my hero was in a navy dress suit and bright scarf. We were sitting on the Today show couch and I had the biggest smile on my face.
My jaw dropped as I sat in my kitchen, realizing that she had kept the picture and letter for 22 years. I was immediately transported back to 1998:
The kitchen in my childhood home had a tiny television that was always tuned into the Today show. Every morning, at exactly 7 a.m., I heard the voiceover announcing the date and saw the camera zooming in on Rockefeller Plaza. This was it for me. I was going to do what Katie did. Thanks to my uncle who was friendly with an executive producer on the show, I was graciously offered an opportunity to witness a live broadcast. Eighth-grade Jennifer was going to observe the ins and outs of a television news broadcast and watch Katie Couric in person. My parents and I drove into New York City around 5 a.m. While on the set, I sat in the anchor chair briefly before the show started, while my parents took pictures. After the show, I sat with Katie on the couch on set, connecting over journalism, the fact that my mom was also from Arlington, Virginia, and showing her my tape recorder and notepad.
Katie then kindly invited me backstage for a sitdown interview, which put me on cloud nine — this award-winning journalist was making time for me! She couldn’t have been more gracious throughout the whole experience. After that meeting, I listened to my recording over and over again, getting every last detail correct for the school report I would write and the newspaper articles I would contribute to the upcoming issue. I followed up with a thank you note, a photo from the day, and a copy of my report. Sure enough, a response from Katie arrived in the mail and was proudly hung on my childhood room wall until I eventually moved out. Now, it’s placed in a photo album for safe keeping, while the tape from my memory box is in a memory box in my parents’ closet.
Katie entered my life when I was very young and I was constantly mesmerized. Her class, her intelligence, her compassion and her dedication to telling the story inspired me to put out article after article for my junior high and high school papers. I vividly remember her reporting during some of our biggest national moments. The manner in which she interacted with families and handled people’s raw emotional states spoke volumes about the person she was and is today. The dedication to the facts, fair and honest reporting, and telling the story has always been there.
I followed Katie’s career well beyond our meeting in 1998. Watching her become the first female newscaster of a nightly news program was momentous. Katie has a special spark that has inspired me for many years. Years later, I was walking by the Good Morning America studios in Times Square on my way to work and there was Katie filling in for the week. I stared at the window and knew this was still something I wanted for me. My journey wasn’t done.
Today, I’m a mom of a second grader and a kindergartener, and I’ve been out of the workforce for seven years. I want to show my children that I can turn a passion of mine into a new chapter. I’ve been home with them since schools went virtual in March and started to use social media to share my experiences and tips for the new virtual learning world. I’ve used this time as an opportunity to put myself out there and share. My passion for parenting and writing is motivating me to create a community of parents and caregivers looking for support during this unpredictable time in our lives. I’ve chronicled some of our family summer adventures and talked about topics like giving the children outlets for energy, and how to handle lunchtime in an efficient way. I hope any tidbits I can share can be helpful to others.
As I make this shift, I am reminded of one of things I find incredible about Katie. She has an ability to seamlessly pivot based on changes in our society and new technologies and platforms. She used Instagram to create a community, built a newsletter to make news digestible for people who don’t have time to read for hours on end, and developed a production company to make meaningful documentaries that focus on crucial topics. Her flexibility to reinvent has made me realize that I can too. I’m hopeful I can keep sharing my experiences and help parents that may be in similar situations.
So to answer Katie’s question that she posted across our picture — It’s me! I’m the Jennifer you asked about on your Instagram and I’m still here!
Written by Jennifer Weinberg.