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A talk with Katie Couric about love, loss, life and her new talk show

By Nicole Brodeur, The Seattle Times –

SEATTLE — To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Katie Couric.

It always seemed that whatever she was hosting, whomever she was interviewing played second fiddle to her wide smile, scruffy laugh and the first-person pronouns that she seemed to wedge into everything.

Then I sat in a room the other week with Couric, 55, who came to Seattle (for the first time) to promote her new afternoon talk show, “Katie,” and all that changed.

At the event — a breakfast meeting for media buyers and bloggers that advanced NBC’s fall lineup — Couric was asked what she is most proud of.

“Probably the fact that I think I did a pretty good job of raising my kids,” Couric said. “My daughters are, first and foremost, incredibly nice girls with good values.”

After that, Couric cited her cancer-awareness work, from her on-camera colonoscopy (colon-cancer screening went up 20 percent after that, she said), to her Stand Up 2 Cancer fundraiser, to the establishment of a clinical center named for her late husband, Jay Monahan, who died of colon cancer in 1998.

He wasn’t the only person Couric has lost. Her sister, Emily, died of cancer in 2001, and her father, John, died last year.

There is a lot of pain behind that wide-smile, scruffy laugh and me, myself and I. Couric has Been Through Things.

Which brings us to her next thing: “Katie,” an hourlong talk mix of what distributor Disney-ABC Television is calling “smart with heart.” (They thought about calling it “Afternoon Delight,” Couric joked, but that sounded like something for the Playboy Channel.)

The show, which debuts Sept. 10, will take the slot vacated by Oprah Winfrey, against a slew of competing talk shows.

“It’s a crowded field,” Couric said. “But I also feel as if our show will offer something that is different.”

“People used to say to me, ‘I feel like I know you,’ and I’d always say, ‘Well, actually, you do.’ Because you have seen me have two kids, lose my husband to cancer, you have seen me covering tragic stories, you’ve seen me having fun … you really have gotten to know me as a person.”

The talk show is an attempt to return to that familiar ground, now that Couric has attempted the austere authority required of a national news anchor.

“I wanted to get back to my roots as someone who interviews people and interacts with people and is spontaneous and can laugh easily,” she said, “when appropriate.”

She will be interviewing newsmakers and celebrities “who have something interesting to say,” Couric said. “It won’t be the fifth stop on a junket to promote a movie.”

(On her wish list: Melinda Gates, Kate Middleton and Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes.)

There will also be issue-oriented shows on things like raising teenagers; the effect of technology on our lives, children and relationships; and caring for older parents.

Off the air, Couric is a big reader: Old New Yorker magazines she never had time to finish, Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” and Brene Brown’s new book, “Daring Greatly,” which the rest of us will get to see next month.

Couric likes to cook meals with fresh, local produce — some of it from her own vegetable garden. She plays the piano by ear, plays tennis, takes walks. Anything else?

“I like to decorate wooden picture frames with shells and rocks from the ocean,” she said, rather meekly. “Just the typical things.”

Not typical? Her love life makes Page Six.

Last week, the New York Post reported that she was dating New York financier John Molner, 49, after a five-year relationship with “boy-toy” (the Post’s term, not mine) Brooks Perlin, 17 years her junior. They broke up last December.

“I am always dating,” Couric said. “If I don’t have a boyfriend, I am dating. If I wasn’t famous, I would go on Match.com. Instead of looking for Mr. Right you have to look for someone who is interesting and nice. And even if it’s not a match made in heaven, it’s interesting to learn about other people and hear their stories.”

Sounds like what she’s doing on television this fall.

Maybe they should have called it “Afternoon Delight” after all.

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