Who is Katie Couric?
Coinciding with International Women’s Day, on Monday the veteran journalist became the first woman to guest host “Jeopardy!” Couric made her debut after repeat champion Ken Jennings and executive producer Mike Richards initially took over for the late Alex Trebek.
“It is such a thrill to be here guest hosting a show I’ve watched and loved for years — and of course a real honor to help out as all of us recover from the loss of the truly irreplaceable Alex Trebek,” Couric said during her brief opening monologue. “Now, let’s have some fun. Are you ready contestants? Let’s do this thing!”
The media professional also announced on the show that “Jeopardy!” has pledged to match all of the winnings made by competitors during Couric’s hosting stint and donate the amount to Stand Up to Cancer’s pancreatic cancer research team.
In November, longtime “Jeopardy!” emcee Trebek died after a battle with pancreatic cancer, as did Couric’s older sister. Couric, who also lost her husband to cancer, helped launch Stand Up to Cancer, which has raised more than $600 million for disease research since 2008.
“I can’t think of anything more important than supporting cancer research,” Couric said in a recent interview for “Jeopardy!” “It just means the world to me because it’s affected me so personally. And I know it probably means the world to everyone at ‘Jeopardy!’ who loved Alex Trebek.”
Couric also remarked on her historic achievement as the long-running game show’s first female guest host while encouraging other women and girls to take pride in their intelligence and resist the urge to curb their ambition.
“I’ve always believed it’s critically important to have representation in media — to have women, to have people of color, to have all kinds of people that make up this wonderful country we live in — because I want people at home to see people like them in these important powerful authoritative roles,” Couric said. “So to be the first woman on a show that stands for excellence and intelligence and integrity is a real honor for me.
“For little girls everywhere, it’s cool to be smart,” she added. “Girls would get to a certain age and they would sort of hold back, because they didn’t want to be seen as too aggressive or pushy or smarter than the boys, but I think society has really changed, and we’re championing and celebrating smart girls and women.”
In addition to “Jeopardy!,” Couric’s myriad hosting and guest-hosting credits include NBC’s “Today” show, “Good Morning America,” “The Tonight Show,” “60 Minutes” and the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” telecast, as well as well as her self-titled talk show and “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric,” which ran from 2006 to 2011.
Couric previously met Trebek while co-anchoring coverage of Washington, D.C.’s, National Cherry Blossom Festival in 2012. And according to the internet Movie Database, the seasoned interviewer and author is next set to host her own as-yet-untitled documentary series for National Geographic.
“I watch ‘Jeopardy!’ regularly, but I started watching it religiously,” Couric said of preparing for her latest gig. “I spent a lot of time watching Alex — how he moved from category to category, how he phrased his clues, how he solicited responses, how he interacted with contestants. And I learned a lot just through observation.”
Couric will stand behind the “Jeopardy!” podium all of this week and next week. Upcoming guest hosts include Aaron Rodgers, Bill Whitaker, Mayim Bialik, Mehmet Oz, Anderson Cooper, Savannah Guthrie and Sanjay Gupta.