Katie Couric said Sunday she’s ready to take over a revamped “CBS Evening News” that aims for in-depth, nuanced coverage of world events — and more than ready to be the newscaster rather than the news.
“I’m really excited, obviously, to get started, to stop talking about this and actually to start doing the job,” Couric said at a news conference.
But her status as journalist-cum-celebrity is only likely to increase in the weeks leading up to her Sept. 5 debut as CBS anchor and managing editor, as her weekend appearance before the Television Critics Association showed.
Couric was questioned again about why she left her longtime “Today” job to take the anchor position (a rare opportunity, and nothing to do with being the first solo female network anchor, she said) and how her daughters, ages 10 and 14, received her decision (supportively).
She finally drew the line at a query about what she intended to wear on her first newscast.
“You’re kidding, right?” she replied.
“Sadly, I’m not,” said the reporter asking the question, an acknowledgment of the microscopic scrutiny given to Couric’s ascension to the ABC-CBS-NBC anchor troika.
“I’ve actually gone to Charlie Gibson’s stylist,” Couric responded wryly, referring to her ABC counterpart.
Instead, Couric and her new boss, CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus, sought to focus on the newscast itself without giving away too many specifics. She’s succeeding longtime anchor Dan Rather, who left last month.
“It will be different, it will be new, it will be fresh and most of all it will be intelligent, it will be relevant and it will be transparent,” McManus said.
CBS intends to try to capture more of the combined 25 million people who watch network newscasts, he said. The network has long trailed NBC and ABC in the news ratings.
McManus acknowledged the publicity accorded Couric could help draw viewers but said they have to see a newscast they “respect and like.”
The network has implemented a careful marketing campaign for Couric, including promotional spots in which interim anchor Bob Schieffer encourages viewers to “just watch” and others in which Couric discusses the news and how to cover it.
McManus urged patience for the new program, saying it would take time to evolve.
Although details on the changes were scarce, the rough outline that emerged in the hourlong question-and-answer session was of an effort to allocate more time to major stories and provide more perspective on events.
A just-concluded tour in which she heard viewers across America weigh in on news left her convinced there is a demand for greater substance, said Couric, who just concluded her first full week for CBS.
“Some things we heard from people is they want more perspective, they want more news stories in greater context,” she said. “I got the distinct sense they want us to go a little deeper.”
There will be a new set, theme music and graphics for the newscast when Couric replaces Schieffer, McManus said. Schieffer will remain a part of the show, offering views and perhaps commentary from Washington.
The newscast and related programming will be available on radio and through the Internet and wireless services, CBS announced Sunday.
Asked what she would take from the three-hour “Today” format to the much briefer newscast, Couric answered playfully: “I’m trying to convince Martha Stewart to do a cooking show every night.”