Katie Couric on National Geographic, Returning to Today, Life After Yahoo and Megyn Kelly

Her new documentary explores the complexities of gender

Katie Couric's first documentary for National Geographic, Gender Revolution, premieres on Feb. 6. - Credit by Andrew Eccles
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Few broadcast journalists have had a career as varied as Katie Couric’s. She’s worked for all three broadcast news organizations, presiding over morning news (co-hosting Today from 1991 to 2006), evening news (anchoring CBS Evening News from 2006-2011) and a daytime talk show (Katie, from 2012-2014). Since 2014, she has served as Yahoo’s global news anchor. Now, Couric is branching out again, producing and hosting Gender Revolution: a Journey with Katie Couric, a National Geographic documentary exploring the changing terrain of gender today.

For the documentary, which premieres Feb. 6, Couric traveled the country, speaking with activists, researchers, professors and transgender people spanning several generations. She sat down with Adweek to talk about working with National Geographic, returning to guest host Today in January, her future with Yahoo and Megyn Kelly’s recent leap from Fox News to NBC, which echoed Couric’s own decision 11 years ago to leave Today for CBS News.

Adweek: How did this documentary come about?

Katie Couric: I’ve always been interested in these issues. And I realized a lot of people were interested in these issues, because I kept seeing story after story, learning new terms, seeing on Tinder and Facebook that there were all these changes accommodating this new gender paradigm. When my daughter told me at Stanford, in discussion groups you went around the circle giving your name and pronoun, I thought, well, something’s happening here. The topic wasn’t going away, and it was dominating a lot of coverage. It was bleeding into all different areas—public policy, with laws and the bathroom debate. And it was entering the fashion world. You couldn’t look in any kind of part of society that it didn’t seem to be having an impact on. As a journalist, I wanted to know why, and how, and what it meant and where we were going, and talk to the people who were behind the headlines. That’s very hard to do in this modern media culture when it’s fast, fast, fast. And then you move on to another story. So it’s a real privilege for me to be able to take a topic like this, dissect it and try to connect the dots for people.

Couric interviewed trans teenager Gavin Grimm, whose lawsuit seeking equal bathroom access is headed to the Supreme Court.
National Geographic/Eric Kruszewski

How did you end up partnering with National Geographic?

I just went to them and I said, “Hey, I want to do this.” I had met Courteney [Monroe, CEO of National Geographic global television networks] at Morgan Freeman’s premiere of his series The Story of God and learned that she liked my work. And I thought, wow, National Geographic is doing some interesting things. They’re taking their mission statement of exploration to include ideas and not just places. Maybe they’d be interested. So we went to Washington and met with her, and coincidentally, they were doing a whole issue on gender. She was like, “Shazam, we’ve got this thing cooking. This would be a great companion piece to what we already have.”

At what point did you realize that you needed two hours to delve into the topic?

I really wanted it to be a 12- to 16-hour docuseries. I thought there was that much information and that the topic was that important. But they didn’t really let me do that. We knew all along that we were going to have to make some very difficult choices about what we were going to include. And we wanted it to be as well rounded as possible. We wanted to reflect as many different situations and people and socioeconomic levels and geographic regions as possible, and we wanted it to be diverse, so we really worked hard to make that happen.

Have you talked with National Geographic about doing other projects?

I’m really impressed with what Courteney is doing with National Geographic. She’s really transforming the brand—I’m so sick of that word!—upping their game and doing interesting, creative things while staying true to the mission statement and the kind of ethos of National Geographic. So if there’s another project that they’re interested in and I’m curious and passionate about it, I’d totally be open to it. They’ve been incredible collaborators. I feel like I’m in very good hands.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.