Page Six published a lengthy piece yesterday about Katie Couric’s time as the face of Yahoo News. The goal was to hire Couric and make Yahoo a rival to the big network newscasts without the benefit of television. It didn’t quite work out that way. One of the problems was that Couric and her team of TV producers weren’t immediately treated like stars by the team of experienced print journalists that Yahoo had already assembled.
In the spring of 2014, Yahoo moved into the old New York Times building in Times Square. Couric’s crew sat in a cluster on one side of the newsroom, and on the other side, separated by a bank of elevators, was the team belonging to Megan Liberman, the editor in chief of Yahoo News…
Some of the “serious journalists” on Liberman’s team regarded Couric as a “TV person” who did cooking segments and “got colonoscopies on TV,’’ referring to Couric’s groundbreaking 2000 “Today” show segment…
Couric and her producers — seasoned in the world of TV, where big interviews are naturally done by the largest on-air talent — often expected that when the star journalists on Liberman’s team landed big “gets,” such as a sit-down with then-President Barack Obama, Couric would be the one to do the interview.
Liberman’s team had other ideas.
The result was a mixed bag of interviews. Couric sometimes garnered big numbers and at other times struggled to find an audience. At times, her numbers were so low that Yahoo eventually removed the traffic counter from the video page.
Couric, by any measure, had some smash hits at Yahoo.
One was her interview with Stephen Collins, the “7th Heaven” actor who in December 2014 admitted to sexually abusing underage girls. As The Wall Street Journal noted at the time, Couric’s exclusive confessional racked up 5 million views — more than “half of a typical evening news audience, bigger than the average cable news audience, and about twice the views of the best-performing video on CNN.com, the No. 2 player in online news after Yahoo.”…
But for every Stephen Collins-type piece, there were others that got such little traffic that Yahoo worried the low numbers — in the tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands or millions — would embarrass its global anchor and spook its advertisers.
Multiple sources said Yahoo eventually removed the publicly visible view-counters from its now-shuttered video platform, Yahoo Screen, just to save face.
The article goes on to make the case that this wasn’t all or even primarily Couric’s fault. When she had been hired by other networks, those networks had invested millions of dollars in promoting her as a leading part of their brand. Yahoo paid Couric a significant salary ($5 million, though much of that was in Yahoo stock) but the company spent almost nothing promoting her or her work. As a result, she often got lost in the mix.
In addition, Yahoo used an algorithm designed to feed its users more of whatever they were searching for online. So people searching for news were shown more news. But according to Page Six, Yahoo’s algorithm treated all news sources the same, meaning that Yahoo’s original news content got no push from the site. Couric was treated as just another face in the news crowd.
Not mentioned in the story are some major missteps Couric made in her career during her tenure at Yahoo. In 2016 a pro-gun control documentary she narrated and executive produced was found to have manipulated footage to make it appear that a group of gun rights supporters were unable to answer Couric’s simple question. In fact, the group had answered her but the director cut that out and left a 9-second pause. Couric was aware of the manipulation as she had seen a cut of the film before its release. Couric later offered an apology of sorts. She was sued for defamation over the edit but a judge ruled the scene was not defamatory. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a good look for Yahoo’s global news anchor. Couric left Yahoo in 2017, about a year after the controversy erupted.