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Couric: ‘CBS Evening News’ to Be More Relatable to Viewers

Jul 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Less than two full weeks on the job with her network, “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Katie Couric said she is working on her Sept. 5 debut with news staffers to provide a new take on the evening views that will also appeal to longtime viewers.

“We are going to provide something they can’t get other places,” Ms. Couric said Sunday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. “We’re talking a lot about how can the evening news cast look different and feel different without alienating core viewers.”

Ms. Couric, who has been holding a series of town hall meetings across the country over the last week, said she was learning about what viewers want from their evening news.

“People want to know how this relates to their lives, and I think we can do a better job of that,” she said.

Asked by a critic why the town halls have been closed to the media, Ms. Couric defended the decision and said that the call to keep the press out was hers.

“This was an internal exercise,” she said. “I didn’t want to use people willing to spend their time as some kind of promotional device. I didn’t want them to feel nervous about being videotaped or having their comments reported.”

When pressed by the critic who suggested those were focus groups as opposed to town hall meetings, Ms. Couric shot back “I’m sure you can all put together your own town meetings.”

Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, said the new set for “Evening News” will integrate the newsroom but will not be “wildly modernistic.” It will be “much updated and much more contemporary” and allow Ms. Couric to use different areas of the set.

One critic asked Mr. McManus to comment on opinions former network news anchors Ted Koppel and Dan Rather shared last week during the cable portion of press tour. Both men suggested network news was shying away from foreign coverage. Former ABC newsman Mr. Koppel is now working for Discovery Channel, while former CBS Evening News anchor Mr. Rather is working for HDNet.

“That’s an absurd thesis to be honest with you,” he said, noting that there are at least 15 network news anchors in the Middle East covering the crisis in Lebanon and Israel. “We spend tens of millions of dollars doing it. The facts belie themselves. We may not do hour-long documentaries, but we do over 50 hours a week. I’m not at all shy about coverage of international news.”

Interim “Evening News” anchor Bob Schieffer will have a “regular and prominent role” on the newscast from Washington, D.C., once Ms. Couric takes the reigns on-air, Mr. McManus said.

The newscast “may or may not do a commentary,” he added.

Ms, Couric described her move from NBC and CBS as “one of the most civil transitions in network history.”

“They understood this was an opportunity that didn’t exist at NBC,” she added, alluding to ensconced NBC evening news anchor Brian Williams. “They understood very well why I was doing it.”

As part of the Sept. 5 CBS debut, “CBS Evening News” will make its content available on a number of different platforms on a daily basis. A release that was distributed at Press Tour concurrently with Mr. McManus and Ms. Couric’s session announced the following:

• A daily, on-demand Web-exclusive feature will provide extended interviews hosted by Ms. Couric and conducted by her or a CBS News correspondent. The segment will be posted on CBSNews.com by mid-afternoon East Coast time and will run approximately three or four minutes in length. This report will be available for video podcast and will be sent to all CBS Radio News affiliates for broadcast and/or podcast.

• Ms. Couric will offer a Web-exclusive rundown on-camera from the newsroom, giving viewers a first look at the stories being considered for coverage on that night’s broadcast. The rundown will be featured on the CBSNews.com home page and on cellular telephone service Verizon VCast. The current Web-exclusive edition of the evening news program, anchored by Ms. Couric, will continue to be available on CBSNews.com.

• The program will also offer a blog that will feature links to free video, as well as contributions from CBS News correspondents. The blog will be updated throughout the day.

• In a first for “CSB Evening News,” the lead segment of the program will be simulcast by CBS Radio News and made available to its more than 500 affiliated stations in the U.S.

• CBS News is also making available “Katie Couric Reports,” a one-minute look into a top story or issue by Ms. Couric that will be available via radio, Internet and wireless devices. The report will be fed by CBS Radio News at 4:25 p.m. (ET) each afternoon to its affiliates and be available as an audio podcast for their local Web sites. It also will be featured as an on-demand video clip on CBSNews.com and on Verizon VCast phones as a video podcast. Ms. Couric will also anchor CBS Radio News’ 5 p.m. newscast.