Vanity Fair received access to an excerpt of MSNBC anchor Katy Tur‘s upcoming memoir, Rough Draft. It includes a number of interesting anecdotes, including Tur’s heavily-scrutinized relationship with Keith Olbermann, the complicated relationship she has with her father (including the time he told her he was becoming a woman), and blatant sexism she experienced early in her career at News 12 in New York, where Tur was judged explicitly by her looks and called “Turd” behind her back.
The news director called Tur into his office one day in 2007 and remarked that her boobs looked too big in her “TV clothes.”
He reached for a binder on his desk. Ladies and gentlemen, I shit you not, it was a binder full of women. He pulled out a half dozen glossy pictures of the sort you might see in the front of a salon at the mall.
I wasn’t sure where this was going. I thought I was ready for this kind of meeting. It’s the TV business. People were going to comment on your appearance. But I didn’t expect some sort of headshot hall of fame. The news director sighed and handed me the photos. “If you want to appear on camera at my station,” he said, “you need to cut your hair.”
He pointed to the pictures.
“You can choose from any of these styles I’ve picked out for you.”
I looked at the news director. He wasn’t unstylish, exactly, not by the standards of the news business. But was he really an authority on women’s clothes and hair? Did telling me my boobs were too big and that I needed to cut my hair like he wanted, not strike him as a little presumptuous, not to mention sexist?
I looked down at the photos.
They were, to put it bluntly, blunt. We’re talking severe bob cuts. Hard angles. Terrible streaky highlights. Lots of hairspray.
I wish I could say I told him to get bent. I certainly thought it. But I didn’t.
As I was leaving, pictures in hand, the news director added one more requirement.
“Your name” he said. “It’s taken.”
He was talking about Katie Couric, co-anchor of the Today show, one of the most famous journalists of the era. I can’t be “Katy” because she’s “Katie”? Apparently not.
I don’t remember the story, but sometime that summer “Katharine Tur,” a twenty-three-year-old with her hair shaped into a hard plastic dome, appeared for the first time on television in New York or anywhere.
Tur shares an anecdote is from her stint at The Weather Channel, for whom she covered tornadoes in 2009. It’s a combination of mortifying and amusing.
Near the beginning of our trip, in Norman, Oklahoma, we’d all go to dinner at a place called BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. After about five days there, we felt like locals, and just before we left, during a live TV broadcast, one of the anchors asked me what I’d miss the most.
It was a weird thing to ask. I didn’t have deep ties to Norman. I had only been there a week. And frankly, the assignment was to be on the road. So the question kind of threw me. I didn’t know how to answer it. The only thing I could think of on the fly was food.
“I’m going to miss BJ’s,” I said. Panic, danger, abort, abort, abort.
Tur recalls standing next to Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Bettes but being too freaked out to ask for his advice.
Two seconds after the shot was over, a voice in my earpiece: “Did you just say on my show, ‘I’m going to miss BJ’s’?”
It was the executive producer. “Yes, I did.”
“You meant the restaurant, right?”
“Yes, a thousand percent, yes, oh my God.”
“Well, I guess we’ll keep an eye on late night and YouTube.”
Tur shared that the aforementioned executive producer at The Weather Channel is now the president of MSNBC and once again her boss, Rashida Jones.