August 15, 2006

Couric working behind the scenes at CBS

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Soon-to-be "CBS Evening
News" anchor Katie Couric said on Monday that she has been
tempted to go on the air in the month that she's been at the
network but instead is taking the longer view and preparing for
her September 5 debut.

Couric started at CBS News in July and hasn't appeared on
the air since her final "Today" telecast on NBC at the end of
May. But she's hardly been taking the time off: She's been
working with CBS News president Sean McManus and "Evening News"
executive producer Rome Hartman to shape the evening newscast.
She also completed a weeklong town meeting-style round of
events around the country and has been doing other things
behind the scenes.

"I've been working on a '60 Minutes' piece that will air
September 10 and planning some other pieces as well," Couric
said Monday. "That's been very time consuming. I really want to
come out of the box strong. As a reporter, I've wanted to be
involved in some of the (breaking) stories, but I also
understand the importance of good planning" (for the debut of
her newscast).

Hartman said there have been some discussions about Couric
appearing on air but that it never got to the point where she
was about to do it.

"She's been out shooting '60 Minutes' stories and stories
that are going to air for us in the fall," Hartman said. "She's
been out practicing the craft, that's for sure -- just not on
the air."


In a roundtable interview Monday at CBS News headquarters
in Manhattan, Couric said that she was trying to chart a new
path for the evening newscast. That includes taking on a
case-by-case basis whether to travel extensively in war zones
or other dangerous places, something for which her predecessor
Dan Rather was famous.

"If I feel strongly that my presence will advance a story,
that I'm not just window dressing to show that I'm at a
particular story, which I think does happen quite frankly in
certain situations," Couric said. "If I get an important
interview or actually have time to do real reporting and my
presence will serve the story, that's something I will
consider. But additionally, though, there are family
considerations for me that would be part of the equation."

Hartman agreed. "There is a game of network 'chicken'
sometimes, and I don't think we necessarily feel the need to
play that game," he said.

Couric, who tackled a wide range of topics in the 30-minute
interview, declined to tip her hand to many of the specifics of
how her newscast will be different. But she said not to expect
a "soup to nuts" roundup of the day's news, which she said
wasn't appropriate in the current media landscape.

"We're going to take risks and try some new things, and
we're not going to be tied to the formulaic evening newscast
that we've all pretty much grown up with that hasn't changed
very much in the last several decades," Couric said. "We're
going to take some chances and try some new things."


But don't expect Couric to be the same on air as she was
during 15 years at "Today" -- or a robo-anchor either.

"I had opportunities to show my sense of humor or more
playful side (on 'Today')," she said. "I think there will
certainly be fewer opportunities for that on the evening news,
and yet I hope the essence of who I am will surface on the

She's planning to address the "CBS Evening News" audience
during her first newscast but said she doesn't know what she'll
say or when.

"I can't sort of show up and pretend like this is my 87th
newscast and there's nothing new and different here," Couric
said. "I think that obviously I will want at some point to say
a few words to the four people who are watching -- my parents
and my kids -- and give them some sort of indication of what we
are going to try to do here."

Couric said she was thinking about what she'd use as her
sign-off but hadn't come up with anything. She said her mother
was working on it too. And she's planning to stick with Katie
instead of Katherine, a change she made in the early days of

"No one called me that except my father when he was mad at
me," Couric joked. "That's just not who I am."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter