High & Mighty Couric Scolds NYT's Errors, Forgetting Her Own Colossal On-Air Goof

July 25th, 2009 11:06 AM
The TVNewser blog alerted me to Katie Couric’s “Notebook” item yesterday, in which she mocks the New York Times for making “not one, not two, but seven errors” in their remembrance of the late Walter Cronkite last week. TVNewser suggested Couric may have trying to get “payback” for an anti-Couric piece that the Times’s Alessandra Stanley wrote four years ago when Couric worked at NBC:
Wow. This is good. In her 'Notebook' on CBSNews.com, Katie Couric takes down New York Times columnist Alessandra Stanley, and she does it in the cruelest of ways: without mentioning her by name....There is no love lost between the anchor and the columnist. The most memorable Stanley story on Couric may be this 2005 take-down of the then-Today show anchor: "At the first sound of her peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the lights," Stanley wrote about Couric.

Well, this might be Couric's payback. And just look at the smile on her face during the segment...
Couric sounded pretty high and mighty in her take-down of the Times: “As we say goodbye to the dean of TV news, let's all remember as journalists when as we say, 'That's the way it is,' it really is.” But a few years ago, Couric utterly embarrassed herself in a Today interview with Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham, as she quoted extensively from an obvious parody of Graham’s habit of diary-keeping. Apparently clueless to the fact that she was quoting a made-up story, Couric confronted Graham: “What, what do you do this for?!” (Video above; audio available here.)

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz ridiculed Couric for failing to get the joke:
Last Wednesday, Washington Post Style writer Mark Leibovich wrote a takeoff of Sen. Bob Graham’s eccentric habit of recording mundane details of his life in color-coded notebooks. It was — let’s say this in capital letters — A PARODY. But the joke apparently was lost on NBC’s Katie Couric, who read the notations that morning to the newly declared presidential candidate on Today....Graham said it was ‘absurd’ and that he hadn’t yet made the previous day’s entries. An NBC statement said only that ‘Katie followed up on a story in the Washington Post regarding the Senator’s daily log.’ Yes, that’s true.
Here’s the full transcript of Couric’s Friday “Notebook,” a 60-second daily commentary produced for CBSNews.com (video here):
Walter Cronkite died one week ago, and while we mourn the loss, it's been wonderful to see such exuberant and heartfelt tributes all across the country. But I had to smile -- albeit a tad bit ruefully, and I think he would too -- when I saw the New York Times correcting a piece that had appeared after his death. The article contained not one, not two, but seven errors about his life and career.

While he may have relished the report that he'd stormed the beaches on Normandy on D-Day, he was actually in a warplane high above. And Walter's coverage of Neil Armstrong's giant leap for mankind came on July 20, 1969, not July 26. And Walter -- like my dad -- worked for U.P. during the war; it didn't become U.P.I. until a merger years later.

The paper issued a correction that seemed as long as the article itself.

Walter Cronkite used to say, 'Get it first, but get it right.' So as we say goodbye to the dean of TV news, let's all remember as journalists when as we say, 'that's the way it is,' it really is. And that's a page from my notebook. I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.
Here’s more detail on how Couric herself goofed up in her May 7, 2003 interview with Bob Graham on Today (probably not the tape she used to audition for her CBS Evening News gig), as recounted in the next day’s CyberAlert:
...Couric ended [her interview with Florida Senator Bob Graham] with her misreading of the Washington Post: "And before we go, I know you keep a running log of your every waking activity. There's an article in the Style section of the Washington Post this morning it says you've logged 26 years of personal minutiae filling 4,400 two by three inch notebooks, color-coded by season. An example: 12:17:, this is when you made the announcement: 'Ascend stage, stumble, regain balance; 12:18: Applause, 'Where the Streets Have No Name,' plays (U2); 12:19: Clap, wave; 12:20: 'Adjust tie (red, white stripes); 12:21: Double thumbs up; 12:22: Sing along with National Anthem, right hand on heart.' What, what do you do this for?!"

A baffled Graham answered: "Well, I mean that is absurd. As a matter of fact I have waited until today to make some notes from yesterday's activity. My father carried a notebook as a dairy-farmer. He would write down numbers of sick cows and fences that were broken to be sure that they got taken care of. I adopted this discipline from him. I use it to write down names of people who have something to say and that I want to be certain that I follow up. I write down what I'm gonna try to get accomplished on that particular day. For me it is a means of organization and discipline and I guess my question is why more people in public office don't do this?"

Couric, seemingly unaware of her confusion, wrapped up: "Well I think it's rather charming and interesting. Well Senator Bob Graham thanks so much for talking with us this morning. We appreciate your time."

Graham does keep a daily diary, but the Post piece was a pretty obvious parody, yet probably not so clear if you're just reading off of cards prepared by naive some staffer.