The “CBS Evening News” isn’t going to become “Entertainment Tonight.” That’s a promise from anchor-in-waiting Katie Couric.
“We’ll do changes slowly,” Couric said Thursday as she wrapped up another day in her six-city tour to talk with viewers. “We’re not going to suddenly have something that doesn’t resemble a newscast overall, but I think we’ll have a newscast that evolves over time.”
Couric’s stop in Denver was part viewer town hall meeting, cancer fighting fundraiser and promotion for the network’s third-place newscast.
Despite her celebrity status, the repeated reminders that she’ll be the first woman solo anchor for a network news show, sagging network news ratings and some speculation that CBS boss Leslie Moonves’ showbiz roots could turn the nightly news into infotainment, Couric said she won’t drag viewers into foreign territory.
The changes, she said, could include expanding segments and breaking traditional time constraints of newscasting. The network is also focusing on how the Internet can enhance the nightly news, offering a place where people can watch news on their schedule and where the network can add information left out of a 30-minute broadcast.
“There was a lot of discussion about sensationalism, instead of just giving us the news,” said Carol Monge of Denver after Couric’s closed-door meeting with a pre-selected audience.
Monge said some sounded skeptical of Couric’s ability to fill the anchor seat once held by Walter Cronkite, after her 15 years on NBC’s Today morning show. But Monge said she would give the show a chance, if only she could find a way to be home and ready for television at 5:30 p.m.
Rome Hartman, CBS Evening News’ executive producer, said there are plenty of challenges.
“This is a great moment, a great opportunity to not remake the form, this is a very venerable institution, but to try to reach new people,” he said. “Part of that is the content of the broadcast, part of it is figuring out new ways to deliver what we do to people so they can get it when they get it, because what we’ve heard from a lot of people is it’s hard, ‘I’m not home. I’d love to watch it, but find me a way to do that.”’
No matter what the network does, CBS has a head start with Couric’s celebrity. About 150 locals, including Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, attended a $250-a-plate luncheon with Couric, to benefit the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers.
Couric, who lost her husband and sister to cancer, has urged early cancer screening, and she implored attendees to get colonoscopy screening.
After visiting Tampa, Fla.; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Denver, Couric is scheduled to complete her tour with visits to San Diego and San Francisco, and visit the Television Critics Association national convention in Los Angeles.