Couric Eager to Report for Duty

Aug 14, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Katie Couric conceded Monday that there have been moments in this summer of hot news stories when she was tempted to say, “Reporting for duty, sir,” instead of waiting for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, when she is scheduled to make her debut as anchor of “CBS Evening News.”

“There has been a little chomping at the bit,” seconded “Evening News” executive producer Rome Hartman.

“It’s not as though they needed me desperately,” she said, referring to CBS News, which she joined this summer along with a contingent of producers and support staffers who followed her from NBC News. Ms. Couric spoke during a group interview with reporters in New York.

When the subject of this summer’s media confusion about whether Ms. Couric, the single mother of two daughters, would or wouldn’t want to anchor from international hot spots, the anchor and her executive producer were leery of making statements in response to questions about hypothetical situations.

Key factors in decisions about whether to go, Ms. Couric said, include her feeling confident that her presence “will advance the reporting” and that she’s not just “window-dressing.”

When the subject arose of peer pressure created by the presence of her anchor counterparts from other networks, Mr. Hartman admitted that “There is a game of network chicken” often played in such high-profile situations. “We don’t want to follow the pack,” Ms. Couric said.

Similarly, the two resisted the urge to jump-start the next chapters of “Evening News” and of the former “Today” co-anchor’s successful career because the list of necessary preparations is still extremely long.

On Tuesday, Ms. Couric will do group and one-on-one interviews with CBS Radio affiliates from throughout the country. Last week Ms. Couric did interviews with some 50 CBS television affiliates.

She’s in various stages of production on stories for “60 Minutes,” including a 9/11-related story scheduled to run Sept. 10.

By the time Ms. Couric is performing all the duties required of her, she will be blogging and doing multiple CBS Radio segments each day.

Though she said she believes now that such a tight schedule will be manageable, Ms. Couric admitted that she and Mr. Hartman “haven’t had time to map out my typical day.”

Nor are they ready to share much about how the newscast actually will look or sound. “We don’t want to tip our hand,” said Ms. Couric, who said that if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, “We don’t want to be flattered before we’re on the air.”

There will be a new set for “Evening News” and new theme music written by Oscar winner James Horner, but no detailed descriptions have emerged. The two were asked if they could hum any of the new “Evening News” music. Mr. Hartman flashed a Cheshire cat smile and said, “We could.” Ms. Couric playfully hummed riffs from classic TV sitcoms.

In the meantime, her mother has been nudging her to work on a signature phrase with which Ms. Couric would close “Evening News.”

Again, Ms. Couric was not revealing anything except that she is “really looking forward to 7 o’clock” Sept. 5, when her history-making debut is over.