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Ashleigh Banfield taps pioneering television journalists for new mentorship program

Ashleigh Banfield is using her clout to help counsel the next generation of broadcast journalists after it was revealed that Katie Couric bullied her early in her career.

DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal that Banfield is launching a new mentorship program next month with top broadcast journalists including Mika Brzezinski, Savannah Guthrie, Lisa Ling and Bob Costas.

Banfield’s program, Rising Tide: The Value in Mentoring Others, which will be organized through Nexstar Media Inc.’s news and entertainment network NewsNation, comes after Katie Couric likened mentorship to career ‘self-sabotage’ in her new memoir.

Industry leader: Ashleigh Banfield is launching a new mentorship program with broadcasting giants after Katie Couric admitted that mentoring Ashleigh would have been ‘self-sabotage’, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal

Rising Tide will provide guidance to illuminate more clearly the professional path for broadcasting newbies and veterans alike through the advice, wisdom and mistakes of industry leaders.

The NewsNation program will be a free monthly symposium and podcast featuring the best of the best in broadcast journalism from politics to sports to entertainment.   

Ashleigh, who hosts Banfield on the network, will work as both a VIP mentor and moderator, interviewing a pantheon of key industry players. 

‘I recently addressed the importance of mentoring younger colleagues on my program and the response was overwhelming,’ Banfield said in a press release. ‘I saw a need that wasn’t being met as robustly as it should be, and I’ve decided to step in and do something about it. Broadcast journalism is incredibly competitive, and we need to help those who are just starting out in the field as much as possible.’ 

Helping hand: Banfield's program, Rising Tide: The Value in Mentoring Others , which will be organized through Nexstar Media Inc.'s news and entertainment network NewsNation, comes after Katie Couric likened mentorship to career 'self-sabotage' in her new memoir

Helping hand: Banfield’s program, Rising Tide: The Value in Mentoring Others , which will be organized through Nexstar Media Inc.’s news and entertainment network NewsNation, comes after Katie Couric likened mentorship to career ‘self-sabotage’ in her new memoir

Journalism: The NewsNation program will be a free monthly symposium and podcast featuring the best of the best in broadcast journalism from politics to sports to entertainment (Mentor Mika Brzezinski pictured)

Journalism: The NewsNation program will be a free monthly symposium and podcast featuring the best of the best in broadcast journalism from politics to sports to entertainment (Mentor Savannah Guthrie pictured)

Journalism: The NewsNation program will be a free monthly symposium and podcast featuring the best of the best in broadcast journalism from politics to sports to entertainment (Mentors Mika Brzezinski, Savannah Guthrie pictured)

DailyMailTV host Thomas Roberts and DailyMail.com columnist Meghan McCain will join the likes of Mika Brzezinski, Savannah Guthrie, Deborah Norville, Bob Costas, Lisa Ling and several others as part of Rising Tide.

Ashleigh currently hosts her eponymous NewsNation show, Banfield, which airs at 10pm ET on the network. 

Her new mentorship program comes after Katie Couric admitted in her new memoir, Going There, that she gave Banfield the cold shoulder when they first worked together because helping her would have been ‘self sabotage’.  

Couric writes that she was aware that ‘someone younger and cuter was always around the corner’ and specifically singles out Banfield as an example.

Best of the best: DailyMailTV host Thomas Roberts and DailyMail.com columnist Meghan McCain (pictured) will join the mentors as part of Rising Tide

Best of the best: DailyMailTV host Thomas Roberts and DailyMail.com columnist Meghan McCain (pictured) will join the mentors as part of Rising Tide

‘For a minute there, Ashleigh Banfield was the next big thing; I’d heard her father was telling anyone who’d listen that she was going to replace me. In that environment, mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage,’ she says in the book.  

Katie later denied icing out Banfield in an interview with People, but Ashleigh recalled the situation quite differently, exclusively telling DailyMail.com that Couric’s behavior made work so ‘challenging’ that the ‘memories and timetables become crystalized.’ 

Additionally, an NBC source who worked with both women at the time bolstered Banfield’s side, saying that Couric ‘blatantly lied to People Magazine.’ 

When contacted by DailyMail.com to respond to Couric’s comments, Banfield exclusively said: ‘I’d only been at the network for about seven months before being assigned to cover the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. I don’t think many people knew my name, my profile wouldn’t rise for another year until after the tragic events of 9/11 and the war on terror in Afghanistan.’

Going high: The new mentorship program comes after Katie Couric admitted in her new memoir, Going There, that she gave Banfield the cold shoulder when they first worked together because helping her would have been 'self sabotage'

Going high: The new mentorship program comes after Katie Couric admitted in her new memoir, Going There, that she gave Banfield the cold shoulder when they first worked together because helping her would have been ‘self sabotage’ 

‘Clearly, we have different recollections of what transpired. All I can say is that when you’re on the receiving end of this kind of behavior, your memories and timetables become crystalized, since it was a very challenging time for me, personally and professionally,’ she added.  

In People, when Couric was asked if she iced out Banfield, she changed her tune saying: ‘Absolutely not. I think if someone was openly saying they were going to replace me, I don’t think I helped them. I never iced her out. I never criticized her. It just didn’t bring out my generous side.’

‘The culture at the time and the scarcity of high-profile jobs for women — not to mention the fact that I watched Jane [Pauley] get pushed out [as Today co-anchor in 1989] because of the whims of the men in charge — sometimes made me feel protective of my position,’ the 64-year-old added.  

However, a well-placed NBC source who worked closely with Katie and Ashleigh back in the early aughts refutes Couric’s revisionist history and tells DailyMail.com that the former Today anchor owes Banfield a big apology. 

‘Katie has blatantly lied to People Magazine,’ the source tells DailyMail.com. ‘I was in Australia when she humiliated Ashleigh and this was in September of 2000 and Ashleigh had only just recently joined MSNBC and NBC News.’ 

DailyMail.com previously reported that while covering the Olympics, Couric humiliated Banfield and then mocked her after she was scolded for asking an ‘off-limits’ question during an interview with Olympic Gold medalist Michael Johnson. 

‘Katie is rewriting history. To say she didn’t criticize her is outrageous. I was there, I saw her do it both to her face and behind her back. She was awful,’ the source said. ‘Many of us remember Katie’s appalling treatment of Ashleigh and Katie knows in her heart what she did to her.  

'For a minute there, Ashleigh Banfield was the next big thing; I'd heard her father was telling anyone who'd listen that she was going to replace me. In that environment, mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage,' she says in the book.

'For a minute there, Ashleigh Banfield was the next big thing; I'd heard her father was telling anyone who'd listen that she was going to replace me. In that environment, mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage,' she says in the book.

‘For a minute there, Ashleigh Banfield was the next big thing; I’d heard her father was telling anyone who’d listen that she was going to replace me. In that environment, mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage,’ she says in the book. 

A particularly egregious example of Katie’s petty side occurred when she humiliated Ashleigh Banfield at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, while they both worked at NBC.

While covering the Olympics in Sydney, Banfield was advised by a producer that she would fill in for legendary NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and interview Olympic Gold medalist Michael Johnson in his place at the Olympic Park in Sydney. 

Katie Couric would be interviewing him first for the TODAY Show and Banfield would then interview him for the next broadcast of NBC Nightly News.  

A senior producer told Banfield that NBC had made a deal with Michael Johnson’s team that no questions would be asked specifically about the use of performance enhancing drugs. 

However, Banfield was advised that she could ask about the rumors of other athletes doping to gain an advantage at the Olympic Games. 

Johnson never used drugs, however years later he gave back his Gold medal for the relay race in Sydney when it was revealed that his teammate Antonio Pettigrew admitted to using steroids. 

Petty: A particularly egregious example of Katie's mean girl attitude occurred when she humiliated Ashleigh Banfield at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, while they both worked at NBC (Banfield is pictured in 2000)

Petty: A particularly egregious example of Katie’s mean girl attitude occurred when she humiliated Ashleigh Banfield at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, while they both worked at NBC (Banfield is pictured in 2000)

When Banfield and a production assistant arrived at Sydney’s Olympic Park where the TODAY Show had their custom built set, an aggressive female producer who worked for Couric marched right up to Banfield and yelled in her face ‘You aren’t supposed to be in here,’ a source previously revealed to DailyMail.com 

‘Spit was flying everywhere into Ashleigh’s face,’ they said. 

The producer reportedly told Banfield to ‘sit outside the studio door on this chair.’ The chair belonged to the show’s security guard who looked on mortified.

The producer then looked at the production assistant and said, ‘It’s ok, you can come in, but she has to sit outside,’ referring to Banfield. 

The production assistant was ushered inside where Couric was putting on her microphone and joking about how she made Banfield wait outside and was barred from coming in until she was done.

‘I hope it wasn’t too mean having her kicked out of here. Hehehehe,’ Couric reportedly said as everyone laughed.

While Banfield waited outside, Couric announced, ‘I think Michael [Johnson] has another interview to do before he leaves, but before he does that, my daughter Ellie needs to interview him first for a school paper.’

Banfield continued to wait as nine-year-old Ellie went before her. Michael then gifted Ellie with one of his gold running shoes that he signed for her. 

Back story: DailyMail.com previously reported that while covering the Olympics, Couric humiliated Banfield and then mocked her after she was scolded for asking an 'off-limits' question during an interview with Olympic Gold medalist Michael Johnson

Back story: DailyMail.com previously reported that while covering the Olympics, Couric humiliated Banfield and then mocked her after she was scolded for asking an ‘off-limits’ question during an interview with Olympic Gold medalist Michael Johnson 

'Katie's treatment of Ashleigh permeated the network as Katie was one of the most powerful people at NBC News and people were afraid of her, so that made Ashleigh a target,' a source told DailyMail.com this week

‘Katie’s treatment of Ashleigh permeated the network as Katie was one of the most powerful people at NBC News and people were afraid of her, so that made Ashleigh a target,’ a source told DailyMail.com this week

Couric writes about this incident in her book Going There but appears to make no mention of her rift with Banfield in Sydney. 

‘Granted, sometimes the over-the-top perks of my job made it hard to keep everyone grounded,’ Couric writes. ‘How could I not bring the girls to the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Sydney, Athens? They met gold medalists; Ellie interviewed sprinter Michael Johnson for a school paper, and he autographed one of his gold running shoes for her.’

Finally, it was Banfield’s turn to interview the runner and she was ushered into the room and right onto the set. Rather than leave the set so Banfield could complete the interview in peace, Couric stood around to watch with a gang of production staff and her daughter.

All was going fine until Banfield asked him about the rumored drug use by athletes at the Olympics. Michael stopped and looked furious and a member of his team intervened and said, ‘This wasn’t agreed to, what are you doing?’

Couric then began mocking Banfield out loud to the production assistant and everyone around her.

‘What is she doing? Who does she think she is? This is so embarrassing for me and for the TODAY Show,’ Couric reportedly said. 

'Granted, sometimes the over-the-top perks of my job made it hard to keep everyone grounded,' Couric writes in the book. 'How could I not bring the girls to the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Sydney, Athens? They met gold medalists; Ellie interviewed sprinter Michael Johnson for a school paper, and he autographed one of his gold running shoes for her.'

‘Granted, sometimes the over-the-top perks of my job made it hard to keep everyone grounded,’ Couric writes in the book. ‘How could I not bring the girls to the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Sydney, Athens? They met gold medalists; Ellie interviewed sprinter Michael Johnson for a school paper, and he autographed one of his gold running shoes for her.’

The interview quickly ended and as Banfield was leaving the set, she walked by Couric who said, ‘Eww that was awkward Ashleigh. Eww. Awkward.’

Banfield then returned to the NBC newsroom where she was reprimanded for asking the question and for embarrassing Couric. 

DailyMail.com previously revealed that Couric admits in her upcoming book that during her time at Today she was unwelcoming to other women because she felt like she needed to ‘protect my turf.’ 

‘Katie’s book is a drive by shooting of so many people, but what she has ultimately done is shoot herself in the foot,’ an insider quipped to DailyMail.com

Adding: ‘There are so many women over the years who she was not kind to, just pick up the phone and ask Ann Curry, Alexis Glick, Natalie Morales, Deborah Norville and Jodi Applegate. We all heard what Katie would say about them, Katie was not a supporter of other women. Katie Couric owes Ashleigh Banfield an apology, not only for this book but for the way she treated her back in the early 2000s.’

The source also noted that Ashleigh’s poor treatment continued for years with the New York Times reporting in 2003 that Tom Brokaw stepped in to defend her. 

‘In 2003 the New York Times even wrote about legendary anchor Tom Brokaw coming to Ashleigh’s defense as he was horrified with how Ashleigh was being treated within the network while she was on the road reporting,’ the source said. 

The New York Times reported at the time: ‘When a group of NBC staff members in New York poked fun at her for delivering a report with heavy dramatic flair one night, they were scolded by Tom Brokaw, the anchor of the ”NBC Nightly News.” He reminded them they were in a comfortable studio while she was out in the danger zone, according to two people with knowledge of the incident.’ 

Mentorship: Rising Tide launches via NewsNation in November 


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