Katie Couric says low-rated local newscasts helped keep “The CBS Evening News” mired in third place during her five years as anchor of the flagship CBS broadcast.
“I believe we were in third place for 13 years before I got here, and I think habits, particularly with an evening news broadcast, move at a glacial pace,” she says in a New York Times interview. “And I think that local news stations have something to do with it. Some people have said that local news is really important in terms of lead-ins.”
The Times Q&A was posted Monday on the newspaper’s Web site, though it’s not due to be published until this coming weekend in the paper’s Sunday magazine. It’s unclear if the interview was conducted after the Associated Press story came out on Monday that quoted an unnamed CBS executive saying Couric would definitely be replaced as “Evening News” anchor when her contract expires in June.
But the interview reads like a Couric post-mortem on her tenure. For months, she’s been rumored to be talking to several companies – including CBS – about hosting a syndicated daytime talk show. CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley has emerged as the frontrunner to succeed her as anchor.
In the interview, Couric was asked if she felt she and CBS News producers moved too quickly when she started in 2006 to drastically alter the newscast in order to distinguish it from the Dan Rather era. Back then, the newscast featured Couric interviewing newsmakers and also had guest commentators, some of them controversial such as Rush Limbaugh.
“In retrospect, I would have given people what they were used to, a traditional newscast,” she says now. “And then as they got to know me and got more comfortable, then I would’ve started toying with the format and trying new things. I think we were overly ambitious. We probably would have been better off playing it a little safer.”
As for the rumors that she’s angling for a talk show, Couric confirmed that she’s been talking to former NBC President Jeff Zucker – her former producer at the “Today” show and a close friend – about that subject. “We talk a lot and, yes, we’ve been discussing the possibilities,” she said. “That’s true.” She said she hopes her talk show would be known “hopefully for smart conversation.”
The Times’ interviewer even asked her what she thinks of Charlie Sheen, who’s not exactly a Couric colleague, although he was the star of the highest-rated comedy series on CBS.
The interviewer asked Couric what she would do if she ran CBS. “Fire him,” she said.