August 31, 2006

Couric sheds 20 pounds in doctored publicity photo

LOS ANGELES -- The CBS network said on Wednesday that an overzealous employee in its publicity department was responsible for air-brushing about 20 pounds off Katie Couric's figure in a recent promotional photo.

A photograph taken at a network event in May, showing Couric standing on stage smiling in a pin-stripped suit, was digitally altered to give the incoming CBS News anchor a trimmer waistline, darker clothing and even a thinner face.

An untouched version of the picture originally was circulated as an official press photo early in the network's campaign to promote Couric's upcoming September 5 debut as the new host of the CBS Evening News.

The digitally altered photo appeared in the latest quarterly edition of the CBS in-house magazine Watch!, which is distributed to network employees, affiliate stations, outside media and passengers on American Airlines flights.

Total circulation for the magazine is about 400,000 copies, according to the network.

"Watch! magazine retouched (the photo) without the knowledge of Ms. Couric or CBS News management," CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said. Another spokesman, Gil Schwartz, said the doctored image was the work of a CBS photo department employee who got "a little zealous."

Network executives sought to downplay the incident, which came amid an unprecedented promotional blitz aimed at convincing viewers that the perky former host of NBC's "Today" show is a serious journalist and not just a celebrity.

CBS News President Sean McManus told the New York Daily News he was "obviously surprised and disappointed" when he heard about the incident but joked, "I've asked that 3 inches in height be added to my official CBS photo."

The newspaper quoted Couric, 49, as saying she liked the original photo better because "There is more of me to love."