The intrepid and indefatigable Katy Tur
Five years ago, MSNBC reporter Katy Tur wrote a compelling memoir about covering the 2016 Trump campaign, “Unbelievable: My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History.” It quickly rose to Number 1 on the New York Times Best-Seller list. Now Tur, who is not even 40 and lives with her family in Brooklyn, has written a second memoir, “Rough Draft.” It’s a much different, deeper book, one in which she exhumes some long buried toys in the attic. That she was able to write the book while anchoring her own 2:00 PM MSNBC show, getting married (to Tony Dokoupil, now CBS Mornings anchor), becoming pregnant, giving birth to a boy, coping with Covid and another election, having a second child, a daughter – and dealing with the out-of-left-field transitioning of her demanding newscaster, chopper-flying father Bob Tur, speaks to her grit, stamina, focus and determination. The book candidly and colorfully chronicles how she kept it all together.
In April of 2013, while on location covering the Boston Marathon bombing for NBC News, Tur’s father called to tell her he had decided to become a woman. She nearly choked on the cheeseburger she was eating at the time. Her father had always been volatile and intense, with a more-than-occasional violent streak. In a subsequent conversation, he would tell Katy that the violence was due to his ambivalence about his sexuality. But she wouldn’t let him off so easily. “It felt like my dad was playing a get-out- of-gender-free card I didn’t know existed.” She insisted they talk about the violence but her father refused to consider it. This caused an estrangement that still exists.
In the foreword of “Rough Draft,” Tur described her relationship with her father. “I support her transition and I applaud my father’s courage. I also still struggle with my father’s past, which is a major part of this book. For that reason, Zoey will be Zoey from the moment of her announcement to me. Before it, Bob will be Bob. Both she and he will always be my father.”
Recently I caught up with Tur by phone. Below are edited excerpts from our conversation.
How in the world, with your jammed and frenetic schedule – including being the mom to two toddlers – did you find the time to write the book?
(Laughing) Truthfully, it was a fucking miserable experience. I began writing the book in 2019, before the pandemic. At first It was slow going but eventually I found my stride.
Did you know from the outset that this book would be very different from “Unbelievable.”
My second book was supposed to be the follow up to “Unbelievable.” But then the pandemic hit and the book slowly morphed into a more personal memoir. I always knew that I’d write about my family but I thought it would be further down the road.
How has being a mother changed, if at all, your approach to your job?
It has deepened my connection to being a reporter. Any experience you have – whether becoming a mother or dealing with a death in the family – makes you a better reporter. It gives you an understanding of what people are going through. And it creates empathy.
In making the transition from reporter to anchor, what were the toughest adjustments?
As a reporter I knew a lot about one subject. As an anchor you need to be informed about everything.
A recent NBC Nightly News broadcast, anchored by Kate Snow, was devoted to one topic: gun violence in five American cities on one night. Would you ever devote your show to one topic?
“Funny you should ask that because I would like to do a single-topic show at some point. I was even thinking of doing one on gun violence in America but Kate beat me to the punch. But there are a myriad of topics to be explored, including, most prominently, climate change.”
How did you come to live in Brooklyn?
Well, as you know from interviewing me for “Unbelievable,” my first television job in New York was being a reporter for News 12 Brooklyn, so I really got to know the borough. But there’s a deeper connection: My maternal grandfather, George John Gerulakos, was born and raised in Brooklyn. In fact, he was a rabid Dodgers fan. He lived on Union Street in Park Slope. He met my grandmother in Brooklyn, married and then moved to Los Angeles, where, oddly enough, he never went to a Dodgers game! My grandfather died while I was in college. I would have loved comparing notes about Brooklyn with him. The reason I moved to Brooklyn is because while often visiting Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Ft. Greene and Cobble Hill I always thought ‘Gee, it would be nice to live in one of those brownstones.’ Now we do.
Katy Tur’s “Rough Draft” is published by One Signal Publishers/Atria, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, and is available in bookstores now.
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