Couric Meets the Press
New CBS anchor wants to shake up evening news, but not too muchPASADENA, Calif. --
Speaking to reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association press tour, the new anchor of the "CBS Evening News" fielded questions about her time on NBC's "Today" show, her transition to the more sober environs of nightly news and her own celebrity smoothly -- meaning there were no big revelations. She starts her new job on Sept. 5, helming a newscast she says will look somewhat different than it has in the past.
But not too much so: "We've been talking a lot about how can the evening newscast be different and look different, and yet also not alienate its core viewers," she says.
Couric spent some time earlier this month at a series of town-hall meetings across the country, talking with viewers about what they want from TV news. A big theme, she says, was "more perspective."
"They want news stories and greater context. They may want some more historical background," she says. "I know there are limitations given that the evening newscast is 22 minutes long. But I got the distinct sense that they want us to go a little bit deeper."
Couric would also like to incorporate more interviews into the broadcast, as that was one of her strengths on "Today." And she hopes that the relationship she developed with viewers during her 15 years as co-anchor of the morning show will carry over to CBS.
"[I]t really is a very different animal," she says of her new job. "But I guess the common thread is that I'm a part of the broadcast, and whatever qualities I have that people have connected with will still be there. I'm not going to suddenly be in a ... straitjacket and not be able to have any sort of who I am as a person come out."
Which is not to say that the "CBS Evening News" is suddenly about to go "soft," although she jokes that "I'm trying to convince Martha Stewart to do a cooking segment every night."
The question of whether Couric has the hard-news chops to lead an evening newscast has persisted since CBS announced her hiring in April. Both she and her boss, CBS News chief Sean McManus, point out that she covered plenty of serious news on "Today," and Couric also notes that the fact that she also did celebrity interviews and lifestyle segments doesn't necessarily detract from her abilities as a journalist.
"[S]ometimes people forget that I have done a lot of very serious things. It's almost as if you do the fun stuff well, then you can't be serious," she says. "Because I don't think people feel if you do the serious stuff well that you can't necessarily be fun."
Couric and McManus both realize that until she actually goes in front of a CBS camera in September, such conversations will probably continue. Which they don't necessarily see as a bad thing.
"So the celebrity is something, as much as it's a positive, it's drawing an enormous amount of attention to our program," McManus says. "In the end, all that attention could be completely wasted if we don't put on a show that the American people don't respect and like, but I think we will."