And now the other shoe has started to drop…minus a totally official announcement. In a way, it’s a non-story given the ratings. And for those who admired her as an interviewer who never got the credit she deserved, it’s welcome news: Katie Couric will leave CBS News and move to her own syndicated program:
It’s been rumored for weeks, but a CBS Evening News official is now (anonymously) confirming that Katie Couric is leaving her anchor post. Couric, 54, the first woman in US history to be sole anchor of a daily network news program, plans to start a syndicated talk show some time next year. Couric moved from NBC’s Today show to began as CBS anchor in 2006 with major hoopla. But much of her first curious audience drifted away and CBS was stuck in third place behind NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams and ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer. Couric’s current contract is up June 4, but it’s not yet clear when she will step down, reports AP.
CBS Sunday news anchor Russ Mitchell, 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley and former Early Show co-host Harry Smith are being considered to replace Couric, and the network will also look at candidates currently working elsewhere, according to sources.
The AP is very careful about the accuracy of its stories so you can consider this story — and the sourcing — solid.
Couric is the classic case of someone who was ill-served by a new company that desperately wanted her. She left NBC and went to CBS News with great fanfare. When she was a morning TV news show megastar she was not just known for being “perky” (an adjective often used to describe her). She was, in fact, a superb interviewer who knew how to get the information and ask tough questions — if necessarily repeatedly — until she got an answer. The CBS news format didn’t suit her well but, even more, her bosses did not use her skills well in it.
Meanwhile, network evening news fortunes in general declined in an age when their viewership was getting older and older. Many people now get their news from the cable news stations, internet and (CRINGE) v talk radio.
Couric has all the makings of someone who could have a mega-hit daytime syndicated show if it lets her do the kind of interviewing that made her a huge star on Today. CBS, meanwhile, can try to figure out what kind of newsperson or personality fan fill that slot — and that format. That old format that was at the height of its popularity in the days of Walter Cronkite…during the days when there were pay telephones…the days when there were only four major TV networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS)…the days before cable, talk shows, before ideological-based news shows, before the internet, before weblogs…before the days audiences would only tune into or read shows and materials that overtly reflected their own political biases.
The audience became more diffuse as Americans entered into an era of “narrowcasting” — not just in broadcasting, but in our politics where the concept of broad coalitions requiring and celebrating consensus and compromise is considered oh so 20th century.
Couric still has the makings of a TV megastar who gets the ratings and is admired for her media presence AND her considerable interview talents.
In the end, CBS is freed — and so (most assuredly) is Couric.
UPDATE: AP feels confident enough about its report that it posted its report on You Tube (which notes that CBS may also be interested in her syndicated show):
TMZ puts its own twist on this. It’s sources say she has not made a CBS exit deal but still confirms the gist of the AP report:
Sources connected with Couric tell us … Katie has no hard feelings toward CBS and may end up staying at the network, but feels her role as anchor of the CBS Evening News has been way too confining.
We’re told Couric is most interested in doing a syndicated show — probably a talk show — but wants to end up somewhere that has a news operation where she can contribute. Sources say she’s in serious talks with CBS, NBC and CNN. Her reps are talking to ABC, but that’s a long shot.
Katie’s exit from CBS Evening News is “not 100%” but it’s just a matter of time before Katie announces her departure — sources say it will come in the next few weeks.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.