It was the morning after Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards when we hopped on the phone with journalism’s most insightful interviewer, Katie Couric. It was also the morning after she interviewed legendary White House photographer Pete Souza for her self-titled podcast, which she just launched over one year ago. Couric, who hosts her show along with Brian Goldsmith, fills us in on life on the podcast and how it’s different from her daily days on the small screen.
Katie, it’s been over one year since you launched your podcast. Why did you want to tap into this medium of journalism?
I’m always fascinated by new and exciting ways to tell stories. I think I’m always fairly tuned into the trends, and I recognized that podcasts were really growing. They provide this incredibly intimate experience for listeners—maybe it’s the proximity of the earbuds because you’re going straight into their brain—but it just seemed like a really interesting medium to me. I think people are craving a longer, more in-depth conversation in this era of Twitter and Instagram.
Explain the focus of the podcast.
It’s really just interesting conversations with interesting people. We really run the gamut, from comedians to political figures to historians to celebrities. It’s people we think have something to say and are sometimes uber-topical and other times are just unique and interesting. I’m very curious about a lot of things, and this gives us enormous flexibility when it comes to the people we talk to.
What is your audience most curious about these days?
I think a lot of people are curious and anxiety-ridden about the state of the world. I think they also find it fun to listen to people who they’ve seen but maybe don’t know their backstory, like Samantha Bee or Julia Louise–Dreyfus, or even Alec Baldwin. Hopefully they enjoy the insightful questions we ask—we get a lot of really nice feedback from our listeners.
Who are some of your favorite guests who you’ve had on the show?
I love and am friendly with Julia Louise-Dreyfus. We have a great relationship so it was fun. I also loved talking to [political scientist] Norman Ornstein—I think he’s very smart about politics, Trump, and the country. I’m really into comedians, so I’m excited that Amy Schumer will be coming on the show. I enjoy talking to really smart women like Sheryl Sandberg— we have a lot in common in terms of our experiences with losing our husbands, so that was meaningful for me. I interviewed Maria Sharapova at the 92 Street Y and repurposed it. Those are some of the highlights.
Who’s on your wish-list of guests?
I’d love to have an in-depth conversation with Hillary Clinton. I’ve been trying to book her but haven’t been successful so far, so shout out to Hillary! I’d love for Laverne Cox to come on the show—I did a documentary on gender identity so I think she’d be really interesting. I’d love to talk to Michelle Obama and Angela Merkel. I’m currently working on a 6-hour documentary series for National Geographic on big social issues—many of the people who I’ve interviewed for that I’d also love to feature on my podcast like Bryan Stevenson. I also loved interviewing Ina Garten. We like going on-location to do some of these interviews, so we went to her house in East Hampton and she made us truffle scramble eggs, which was pretty sweet.
This week, you interviewed President Obama’s White House photographer, Pete Souza. What’s your favorite photograph he took of the President?
There are so many fantastic ones, but my favorite is of a little boy who’s touching President Obama‘s hair. You can’t look at it without smiling. There’s a great one of Obama at a basketball game with Joe Biden. There’s also a very cute one at the Easter egg roll with Obama looking at the Washington Monument next to the person in the bunny suit. Souza said it showed the two most famous sets of ears in Washington—he has a great sense of humor. He got to know President Obama quite well and it’s very clear in his photographs he’s taken through the years.
Is it easier to get guests to open up on the podcast vs. when on television?
People feel less guarded on podcasts and are more willing to open up and share a side of themselves that I think they’d be uncomfortable doing if they knew the cameras were rolling. There’s something about it that makes people just feel more relaxed and candid and that’s a wonderful thing.
Have you thought about interviewing any fashion designers?
I haven’t actually, but I’d love to! Marc Jacobs would be great. I’ve known him for a very long time. I think he’s found himself in some ways in the middle of this misappropriation conversation in terms of some of the things he’s using in his shows. I’d love to understand what’s inspiring him because when I was with some young Muslim women said they were quite offended by his most recent show, so it would be interesting to talk to him about that. Donna Karan would be interesting to talk to with her experience on social media following the comments she made. Maria Grazia Chiuri also seems interesting.
Is there less pressure for you to dress/look a certain way for the podcast in comparison to when you were on TV daily?
It’s fantastic. I’m still doing a lot of on-camera work with the documentary, but I used to have fun with fashion [back then]. I tried to always wear things that were accessible and not so super-high fashion. I don’t really have a body for high-fashion, and I also wanted people watching to be able to afford the clothes that I was wearing. But I have to say, life without Spanx is really nice.