I know, it feels as if she left months ago. Anyway, the announcement to People.com is here. Very vague about what she'll be doing next. I've seen several reports today that she will join ABC in some capacity, along with getting a syndicated talk show. Oh, well. I can't remember when I last watched a network evening newscast in its entirety.
Here's CBS's official statement: "There’s a lot to be proud of during Katie Couric’s time at Evening News. CBS News, like Katie herself, is looking forward to the next chapter."
After the jump, I have posted a column I wrote when she announced her move from NBC to CBS, and a column I wrote when she started the newcast -- which coincided with Rosie O'Donnell starting on "The View."
From April 2006:
In a communication theory class at Kent State University on Wednesday morning, discussion turned to a "cool mom."
That's how one student described Katie Couric, said Stan Wearden, KSU professor of journalism and mass communication.
On Wednesday's Today show -- the 15th anniversary of Couric's joining the program -- she announced that she will leave the NBC show at the end of May. She said it had been "an honor and a privilege to occupy this seat for as long as I have."
A few hours later, CBS announced its agreement with Couric, which includes her anchoring and serving as managing editor of the Evening News and contributing to 60 Minutes and her own prime-time specials.
"Joining CBS is a unique opportunity that came at the right time for me," Couric said in a CBS statement. "I'm thrilled to become part of the rich tradition of CBS News."
When she takes over the evening news, Couric, 49, will be the first woman to regularly anchor a broadcast network's weeknight newscast solo.
Barbara Walters, Connie Chung and, currently, Elizabeth Vargas have been co-anchors of nightly newscasts, respectively for ABC, CBS and ABC. (Vargas' co-anchor, Bob Woodruff, has been on extended leave because of wounds from a roadside bomb in Iraq.)
"Katie Couric has that combination of charisma and talent and proper gravitas," said Wearden, who is also director of KSU's School of Communication Studies.
His students were generally enthusiastic about Couric's becoming the CBS anchor, he said. The move "is a major step forward, and a step that is long overdue."
Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, offered a similar sentiment.
"NOW is pleased to see a woman finally serving as the sole anchor and managing editor of a network's evening newscast," Gandy said. "While this is a great step for women in media and in leadership roles, I can't help but note that it's taken far too long."
Indeed, one response to Couric's new job could easily be, "What took so long?"
Not only have women co-anchored the major newscasts, they also have been solo anchors in other time slots and substituted on the nightly news.
Without benefit of the main anchor job, people like Couric and Jane Pauley -- as well as men like Mike Wallace -- have become news stars. Walters, for that matter, remains a major TV personality, even though her co-anchoring experience at ABC was not a happy one.
So, again, what took so long?
"It's television executives' tendency toward being real conservative in how they approach their audience," Wearden said.
Old guys gone
Dan Salamone, news director for Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO (Channel 19) and for WUAB (Channel 43), also noted that "the main anchors of the three networks didn't want to give up their jobs."
Indeed, for decades, the big chairs were occupied by Dan Rather at CBS, Tom Brokaw at NBC and Peter Jennings at ABC.
But the retirement of Rather and Brokaw and the death of Jennings opened the door for a new generation of fortysomethings -- Vargas and Woodruff at ABC, Brian Williams at NBC and now Couric at CBS. And, for all the talk about her perkiness, Couric is the oldest of the lot.
Still, as ABC and NBC demonstrated in their anchor choices, there was reluctance to give the job to a woman by herself.
Brooke Spectorsky, general manager of Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC (Channel 3), said he was going to miss Couric on Today and wondered whether her successor will match Couric's chemistry with co-host Matt Lauer.
But he also wondered whether audiences will see in Couric an air of command that he believes major news anchors must have -- the sense that they are not merely reading the news, they know what's going on around the world.
"I think she's perceived more as a personality than as a news person," he said. If that perception does not change quickly, he said, Couric may not get the time to change viewers' minds.
Wearden, on the other hand, thought Couric could bring seriousness to her newscasting. He pointed to her anchoring during 9/11 as evidence.
But it may be that the newscast she anchors will be very different from the newscast as viewers have long known it.
In the announcement of Couric's hiring, Evening News executive producer Rome Hartman spoke of the network's effort "to build a broadcast with a fresh, accessible approach."
With Couric's arrival, "accessible" may be synonymous with "personality-driven." Salamone spoke hopefully of "a much more dynamic newscast" with younger correspondents and "more diverse opinions."
The result would be something that would appeal to younger viewers -- say, those students in that class at Kent State.
Even if young people see Couric as a mother figure, their watching the Evening News in great numbers would be a victory for Couric and CBS' strategy.
At the same time, though, personality creates controversy. Couric has already drawn fire from the right and the left.
The Media Research Center, a watchdog group battling "liberal media bias," posted on its Web site a list of comments meant to illustrate "Couric's years of liberal tilt."
Media Matters for America, a watchdog fighting "conservative misinformation in the U.S. media," answered a request for comment with an e-mailed list of its most recent items about Couric, with one arguing that she had "echoed conservative rhetoric" in an on-air remark.
The attention and the reaction will probably intensify as she becomes the main on-air representative of CBS News. And it could be even more marked if Couric does indeed preside over a new kind of newscast -- or at least, new to the weeknight reports.
From September 2006:
Rosie was in her comfort zone. Katie's still looking for it.
Two TV stars started new jobs Tuesday.
Katie Couric took her place in the women's history books when she became the first permanent, solo female anchor of the weeknight CBS Evening News. And Rosie O'Donnell ended a four-year exile from daytime TV by becoming one of the co-hosts of ABC's The View.
Couric's evening debut found her looking a bit stiff during the first half of the 30-minute telecast, when the news was most somber: war in Afghanistan, President Bush's latest speech, a 9/11 note and an interview with foreign-policy reporter Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. The segments tried not only to cover the news but also explain it (something Couric wants to do) -- only not always well; a segment on a new oil find was introduced with a question of what it would mean to gas prices but did not provide a specific answer.
During the newsy stretch, Couric demonstrated she could be all business. During the interview with Friedman, she leaned back in her armchair, maintaining distance and formality, even as Friedman leaned a bit toward her. But plenty of people could be businesslike in that job; Couric is supposed to bring something more vibrant.
In the later parts of the news, where the fare was a bit lighter (sort of like the second hour of the Today show), her humor and personality showed better. She promoted "something new for the evening news -- besides me," and invited viewers to suggest a sign-off remark for her. A look at former anchors' sign-offs included real-life anchors before bending into the comic fictions of Ted Baxter and Ron Burgundy.
Yet, beyond Couric herself, the Evening News felt all too aware that the audience was older, serious-minded and looking for signs that Couric was committing newscast heresy.
So before Baxter and Burgundy, we were reminded that Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and other legends had sign-offs.
Introducing a shot of the Suri Cruise cover of Vanity Fair magazine, Couric reached back to 1949 for a CBS news clip of Douglas Edwards showing off baby pictures of Prince Charles.
A new commentary segment -- led off, with cliches flying, by Morgan Spurlock -- was also retro, recalling the days of Eric Sevareid. But it didn't get historical context, since it was supposed to be something new.
Only the night's telecast -- "besides me" -- didn't feel all that new. It was the first in a series of test drives for Couric's newscast, which still needs some tuning.
O'Donnell provides spark
O'Donnell, meanwhile, needed no fix-ups for her View appearance. She brought new fire to a show that had become almost unwatchable in the waning days of the Meredith Vieira/Star Jones era. Looking at the show's new set, O'Donnell referred to the old one as looking like a "grandmother's living room," and I had a feeling she thought more than the set had gotten stodgy.
Next to O'Donnell, Joy Behar looked nervous, and Barbara Walters as ancient as Granny Clampett, in spite of her going-to-meeting duds. Only Elisabeth Hasselbeck seemed comfortable, for now.
But it almost didn't matter who else was there. This was the likable, cheery but outspoken O'Donnell of the early years of her successful daytime talk show. And it was fun to listen to her talk -- about her partner, her children, even about Tom Cruise. When Jessica Simpson appeared, O'Donnell was ready with the audience-wants-to-know question about her relationship with John Mayer. (Just friends, says Simpson.) And when the four co-hosts bantered about topics of the day, O'Donnell led the discussion.
There were drawbacks to the show, and not just because of Simpson's promotion of her line of boots. The chatter segment included a clip of the late Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin while the chat had veered from Irwin into the movie Hollywoodland. A taped segment about O'Donnell's experiences in her years away from TV went on far too long. And she brought up some of it, including her regret over a severe haircut, well before the taped piece ran.
But after not wanting to watch The View of late, I may be back for the O'Donnell version. I will do this not out of a sense of obligation -- the way I'll watch The CBS Evening News -- but because it might be fun.