Couric Gearing Up For The Big Day

Katie Couric, official CBS News photo
Katie Couric said Sunday she's ready to take over a revamped CBS Evening News that aims for in-depth, nuanced coverage of world events — and is more than ready to be the newscaster rather than the news.

"I'm really excited, obviously, to get started, to stop talking about this and actually to start doing the job," Couric said at a news conference.

But her status as journalist/celebrity is only likely to increase in the weeks leading up to her Sept. 5th debut as CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor, as her weekend appearance before the Television Critics Association showed.

Couric was questioned again about why she left her longtime "Today" job to take the anchor position (a rare opportunity, and nothing to do with being the first solo female network anchor, she said) and how her daughters, ages 10 and 14, received her decision (supportively).

She finally drew the line at a query about what she intended to wear on her first newscast.

"You're kidding, right?" she replied.

"Sadly, I'm not," said the reporter asking the question, an acknowledgment of the microscopic scrutiny given to Couric's ascension to the ABC-CBS-NBC anchor troika.

"I've actually gone to Charlie Gibson's stylist," Couric responded wryly, referring to her ABC counterpart.

Instead, Couric and her new boss, CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus, sought to focus on the newscast itself without giving away too many specifics. She's succeeding longtime anchor Dan Rather, who left last month.

"It will be different, it will be new, it will be fresh and most of all it will be intelligent, it will be relevant and it will be transparent," McManus said.

CBS announced Sunday that the Evening News broadcast and related programming will also be available on radio and by means of both the Internet and wireless services.

McManus says CBS intends to try to capture more of the combined 25 million people who watch network newscasts. CBS has long trailed NBC and ABC in the news ratings.

McManus acknowledged the publicity accorded Couric could help draw viewers but said they have to see a newscast they "respect and like."

The network has implemented a careful marketing campaign for Couric, including promotional spots in which interim anchor Bob Schieffer encourages viewers to "just watch" and others in which Couric discusses the news and how to cover it.

McManus urged patience for the new program, saying it would take time to evolve.

Although details on the upcoming changes are scarce, the rough outline that emerged in the hour-long question-and-answer session was one of an effort to allocate more time to major stories and provide more perspective on events.

Couric, who has been touring the nation to talk with viewers about the news, says the questions and comments have convinced her that there is a demand for greater substance.

"Some things we heard from people is they want more perspective, they want more news stories in greater context," she said. "I got the distinct sense they want us to go a little deeper."

Couric, who just concluded her first full week for CBS, winds up her national tour on Monday in San Francisco.

McManus says there will be a new set, theme music and graphics for the newscast when Couric replaces Schieffer. Schieffer will remain a part of the show, offering views and perhaps commentary from Washington.

Asked what she will take from the three-hour "Today" format to the much briefer newscast, Couric answered playfully: "I'm trying to convince Martha Stewart to do a cooking show every night."