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Couric to feature regular folks on CBS show

A ‘Free Speech’ segment will feature contributors voicing their opinions.
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

“CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” has taken its first concrete step away from the so-called “voice of God” anchor style, offering both familiar and unknown Americans the chance to sound off on issues that concern them.

“Free Speech” will become a regular segment on Couric’s newscast, which debuts Sept. 5. Contributors will range from nationally known faces to average people who have something to say about immigration, the war in Iraq or lighter fare like the death of good manners.

The segment also will give a regular role on the broadcast to current anchor Bob Schieffer, who will head back to Washington after a year and a half stabilizing and growing the newscast. Schieffer also will offer occasional commentary in the vein of his “Face the Nation” end pieces, executive producer Rome Hartman said.

The idea didn’t spring completely from Couric’s well-publicized town hall-style meetings across the country within the past month, but Hartman said it helped focus the idea.

It still has yet to be decided how often the “Free Speech” segments will air and how long it will last given the 22-minute constraint of the “CBS Evening News.” Hartman acknowledged the time constraints but said Thursday that it will be an important part of the newscast and that decisions on what to include are made every day.

“These are things that are going to contribute to our understanding and viewers’ understanding of the day’s events,” Hartman said. “We can’t possibly cover every single story, every single day. We make these choices every day.”

It’s still to be worked out how CBS News will get the contributors for “Free Speech,” and Hartman didn’t rule out taking submissions, though that won’t be the initial focus.

“At the outset I think it will be much more about our taking the initiative to try to find really distinctive voices, from a whole broad range of geographic locations, life experiences and positions,” Hartman said.