Saturday, September 09, 2006

Katie Couric Makes A Spectacular Start On CBS Nightly News

Katie Couric is making a tremendous start at the CBS Nightly News, making the executives who chose her to become an anchor look brilliant.

In her first week, Couric was crisp, beautiful, clear and her program showed excellent news judgment, proving from the onset its devotion to foreign news. Of course, CBS also has the beauteous, intelligent Lara Logan as its chief foreign correspondent. Put her together with Couric, and you have a doubly winning combination.

Of course, it's too early to draw any solid conclusions about the ratings, but in the first week, Couric was getting many more viewers than either NBC or ABC. Brian Williams, with all his talents and genuine commitment at NBC, was well behind Ms. Couric last week.

Couric has always been a remarkably attractive personality. At first, when she came to the Today show on NBC mornings, only as a temporary anchor after the Deborah Norville debacle, she did not seem to be anchor material. Her background was only Pentagon reporting for NBC and some reporting for CNN and ABC. But within weeks, it seemed the Today show belonged to "Katie," as everyone came to call her, and in a rare stroke of genius NBC quickly made her a co-anchor with Matt Lauer. It kept the Today program the leader of the morning shows for years.

Couric must still show, as a nightly news anchor, that she believes in something outside the conventional. Williams has done that with his concentration on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans rebuilding, his incisive questioning of even President Bush, and his unquestioned integrity. In the long run, as L.A. Times writer Matea Gold, pointed out not long ago in an excellent article, those assets may keep Williams solidly competitive, although his physical appearance is bland compared to Couric. But in her first week, Couric seemed so skilled as to make it highly likely she will give him a fight for the most audience. We have not even yet seen much of her excellent sense of humor, but we will.

I'm delighted to see Couric advance. It's nice there is a woman solo anchor, a working mother (for $15 million a year) and it's already obvious she's a good choice. She looked fabulous in the post this week.

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