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Couric’s news to feature commentary section

Anyone from a viewer to Bob Schieffer can participate in ‘Free Speech’
/ Source: The Associated Press

“CBS Evening News” will include a regular commentary segment called “Free Speech” after Katie Couric debuts as anchor on Sept. 5, the network said Thursday.

Anyone from an average viewer to current anchor Bob Schieffer will participate in the segment, which CBS is keeping open-ended in terms of topics that will be covered.

Newsmen such as John Chancellor, Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith offered commentary on network evening newscasts in years past. But it hasn’t been done for several years and hasn’t been opened to the public in this manner.

“This isn’t our opinion,” said Rome Hartman, the show’s executive producer. “Our goal is to offer a new and transparent outlet for the incredible variety and diversity of voices in this country, and we believe that doing so will help make our viewers, and us, better informed.”

Couric recently traveled to six cities seeking opinions from viewers on what could be done to improve the broadcast, which has been third in a three-network race for several years.

The segment doesn’t always have to be serious; sometimes it will be a humorous take on something in the news, Hartman said. CBS hasn’t yet committed to showing it every night.

Hartman said he’s not looking to create TV shouting matches — “there’s already more than enough of that on television,” he said — and doesn’t want to feature the “usual subjects.”

Besides offering occasional commentaries, Schieffer’s role on the Couric broadcast remains unclear. He has been featured in promotions designed to encourage regular CBS viewers to stick with Couric when he leaves.