Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer Standing by Katie Couric Amid Another Documentary Controversy (EXCLUSIVE)

Katie Couric Under the Gun
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Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is standing by Katie Couric in the face of mounting pressure on the company’s lead newsperson.

In a weekly company-wide meeting with Yahoo staff last Friday, Mayer expressed support for Couric, who at the time was beset by criticism over a documentary she produced independent from her role as Yahoo’s global news anchor, according to sources. That support has not wavered in the last day and a half, a company insider tells Variety, as controversy has surfaced over a second film.

On Wednesday, conservative website the Washington Free Beacon published an article that alleged that director Stephanie Soechtig’s 2014 documentary “Fed Up,” exec produced by Couric, had been edited to mislead viewers. Those claims echoed complaints raised last month by interview subjects from another Couric-Soechtig collaboration, “Under the Gun.”

“Yahoo was not involved in the creation and production of the independent documentaries, ‘Under the Gun’ and ‘Fed Up,'” a Yahoo spokesperson told Variety in a statement. “We’re confident in the work of the Yahoo News team, which adheres to the highest standards of journalism.”

Couric’s standing at Yahoo has been the subject of speculation as the company approaches a possible sale after struggling to better its fortunes under Mayer. Couric joined Yahoo in 2013 in a deal worth a reported $10 million a year — making her one of Mayer’s most high profile and most expensive hires. That deal afforded Couric the creative and professional freedom to work on non-Yahoo side projects such as “Under the Gun,” about mass shootings and gun-control efforts in the United States, and “Fed Up,” about the causes of obesity.

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Katie Couric Under the Gun

Katie Couric Apologizes for ‘Misleading’ Editing on Gun Documentary

Though the films have been the subject of internal discussions at Yahoo, the company has launched no formal investigation into allegations that Couric violated journalistic norms.

Speaking to Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, Dr. David Allison reiterated claims he made in the Free Beacon article that Couric, when interviewing him for “Fed Up,” had encouraged him repeatedly to stop at any time during the interview to collect his thoughts or rephrase an answer, and that one moment in which he did so was edited to make Allison appear unable to respond to Couric’s question.

“I wanted to carefully choose my words to convey what a randomized control trial was, and why it was valued,” Allison told Fox. “And I waited. I gave a very clear answer after that pause, and she denied the American public the chance to really hear the evidence and ideas, and showed only the pause.”

Allison, who has disclosed in the past financial ties to the American Beverage Association and Coca-Cola, is presented in the documentary as an expert countering the position that sugary beverages are linked more directly to obesity than other foods. The film shows Allison, after fielding a question from Couric about that link, asking to collect his thoughts, then taking a long pause. The movie then cuts to another interview subject and does not show Allison again.

After the Free Beacon article was published, the Weinstein Co., which picked up the movie at Sundance in 2014, had clips from the two scenes removed from YouTube through a copyright-violation claim.

Soechtig defended the film in a statement to Variety.

“‘Fed Up,’ which premiered at Sundance two and a half years ago, has had a profound impact on how Americans eat,” she said. “I have received countless testimonials from people whose lives, bodies and health have been transformed because of ‘Fed Up.’ Recently the FDA announced it would start labeling added sugar on nutrition labels — a solution specifically highlighted in this film.”

She added, “I am hopeful that any additional conversation around a problem that is crippling millions of Americans can only lead to positive change and that people will see this for what it is — special interest groups and their allies are worried about the substantive conversations these films have inspired about the issues. I stand behind ‘Under the Gun,’ and ‘Fed Up’ and all the decisions I made as the director.”

A spokesperson for Couric declined to comment, referring instead to the statements from Yahoo and Soechtig.

Couric apologized last week for an edit in “Under the Gun,” which premiered May 14 on Epix, that appeared to show a long, silent pause after Couric asked a group of gun rights advocates a challenging question about background checks. Audio released by the group revealed that there had been no such pause.

Speaking to Variety last week about the controversial edit in “Under the Gun,” Soechtig said, “I made the creative decision and I stand by it.” She characterized the edit as “pro forma” for documentary filmmaking and argued that the controversy had been engineered by the National Rifle Association and anti-gun control advocates.

“This is very textbook gun-lobby intimidation tactics, and I won’t be intimidated,” Soechtig said.

 

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  1. Teeno says:

    Nobody stood behind Brian Williams or for that matter, Dan Rather. Why Couric?

  2. Teeno says:

    why did Brian Williams get dumped for a little exaggeration and Couric keeps her job? And goes back on the TODAY show like nothing ever happened?

  3. Terry2 says:

    I have heard there was a real pause followed by several answers by gun owners. Whether or not that is the case, this was not Couric’s fault and she has publicly apologized for it and started urging people to read the transcript (which is available to viewers) so they can hear the gun owners’ side.

    I think no matter wherher the unfortunate edit was added or not, the NRA would be upset. They will find something else wrong–or inaccurate–in the film and trash the documentary. Why? This film exposed lots of scary information about the NRA’s chokehold on Congress, their insistence on gun ownership being more important than the rights of people to go about their daily lives without worrying about constant lockdowns, senseless gun deaths, destroyed families, etc.

    There were discussions with responsible gun owners who want background checks but that doesn’t even pass.

    The documentary wasn’t perfect but got the point across…never seen a documentary thst didn’t have at least one factual error or bad edit. Bottom line: the movie made the NRA look bad and is no different than what the movie, ‘Concussion,’ did to the NFL.

  4. Is your news company also standing behind Ms. Soechtig’s interview where she admits she commissioned a producer from Colorado to travel to Arizona and purchase firearms…in violation of Federal law?
    Is your company not concerned with the reputational blowback that is going to occur when this story gains wider traction? It’s not like the interview with Ms. Soechtig wherein she admits that she commissioned the felony aren’t out there. Even granting that Ms. Soechtig committed these felonies in ignorance (which I’m prepared to accept that she did not know she was committing numerous felonies), it still brings in to question the highly inept researching skills of people who are supposedly doing a “gun documentary” who don’t bother to find out even the most basic aspects of gun transfer law. These laws are known about in every pawnshop that handles guns in the United States. There is no way to avoid knowing these laws. Yet somehow Ms. Soechtig managed to miss this most basic provision of firearms selling and transport. That’s journalistic ineptitude far beyond a simple “editing faux pas”.
    When this wider story of her producer’s violation of federal laws breaks, does your company intend to stand behind Ms. Couric’s “efforts” then?
    It’s long past time to salvage what little dignity your company has to salvage and throw these embarrassments to the wolves. If you choose not to however, then prepare for the increasingly embarrassing outcomes that will follow.

  5. Jo Mama says:

    “…the controversy had been engineered by the National Rifle Association and anti-gun control advocates.”

    So you can outright lie and manipulate an adult exchange over serious issues if you feel the other side is just stupid and wrong. And you can admit to the manipulation and dishonest filmmaking, and then say the source of the controversy is all these unreasonable people who want to follow our country’s Bill of Rights.

    I want this Stephanie Soechtig hung out for the ultra hypocrite and irresponsible documentarian that she is. Documentaries are supposed to be in the pursuit of truth. Not careful editing that makes your average gun owner look like Sasquatch sighters and alien abductees. You are all protected by Level IV security guards and a cadre of gun toting men, but you get to be act above it while protecting yourself with the wonderful Bill of Rights you argue against.

  6. Joe says:

    No accountability in journalism.

  7. Nom De Guerre says:

    Little more than a Yahoo click whore. It’s all about generating clicks to increase ad revenue.

  8. Kevin Condon says:

    Journalistic integrity is an oxymoron as practiced by Couric and celebrated by Yahoo. Shame on Yahoo for doubling down.

  9. 1favored says:

    Today’s “News” is nothing more reality TV in spades. I really don’t understand Couric’s “popularity” or “paycheck”. What makes her worth so much??? Are the “powers that be” that much out of fresh new ideas, or do they think the public just won’t notice mediocrity???

  10. Jay says:

    The criticisms of Katie Couric would have more credibility if they did not come from Fox and Friends. Fox and Friends is one of the least reliable sources of news and information. Fox News, in general, is a propaganda network pushing lies and distortions of the right wing agenda with occasional weather reports. Fox and Friends is the gossip version of those lies.

    • Guillermo says:

      Good job, comrade! You’re an ignorant drone.

    • Larry Sanders says:

      That’s because MSNBC & CNN don’t want the public to know the truth and try to hide it from the public.

    • Joe says:

      They have audio of the entire interview showing that she edited out a response to a question. it was so blatant that even NPR and the Washington Post criticized her. The moral to the story is always tape your interviews if you’re interviewed by the Press because they have no integrity.

  11. Donna says:

    Couric is a “talking head” and has always been . She is not a professional documentary filmmaker nor producer. Documentaries must be carefully produced for accuracy.

    • Jo Mama says:

      More like a talking smile. It’s beyond ridiculous. She literally sat on the newsdesk with her legs crossed and smiling ear to ear and thought it was a good idea… I wonder why she wasn’t taken seriously in the news world.

  12. Bill says:

    In essence, ignore anything purported to be a documentary coming out of Yahoo as they have zero integrity standards.

  13. Phil Goldman says:

    $10mm a year?!? Are you kidding me!
    What a waste of good money.
    Bad decision Yahoo… really bad decision.

  14. Nanny Mo says:

    Three strikes, Katie is out!

    • Michael Anthony says:

      Using your loguc, then the entire Fox News team, Dineesh, Limbaugh, everyone at Brietbart, would be out too.

      Right wingers ignore their very own mistakes, but freely condemn others. This poster for example, has posted two proven mistruths this week. And yet she judges others. Oh wait, I forget, that’s typical right wing behavior.

      • Larry Sanders says:

        Typical Liberal, Blame everyone else for the Lies & Deception done by Kate Couric.

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