Katie Couric has officially confirmed TV news' worst-kept secret, telling People she's stepping down from the CBS Evening News. No last day has been announced yet, nor does she reveal her next career move, although it's widely believed she'll helm a syndicated talk show.
This ends an experiment in TV news that went beyond Couric's title as the first female solo anchor of a nightly network newscast. When Couric joined CBS in 2006, the network rebuilt the entire evening news around her, adding an interview segment and a series of outside editorials called "FreeSpeech." Then CBS discovered network news viewers can be a very stodgy bunch. The editorial segment disappeared. So did the in-studio interview segments.
Couric continued to do several big interviews in the field, including that sit-down with Sarah Palin which revealed the 2008 veep candidate wasn't quite ready for prime time. It also salvaged Couric's career at the network, which I and others said was circling the drain, given her inability to get the network out of the third-place spot in the evening news ratings race.
I've talked before about the reasons Katie hasn't turned things around. I still think her biggest strength is interviewing and not news-reading, and network brass misjudged that in the glow of Couric's star power. She has never looked comfortable delivering scripts from a prompter, even five years after her debut.
But moreover, it's not about Katie. It's about a nightly news broadcast that has still not escaped the long shadow of Dan Rather and weak lead-ins from its affiliate stations. No one person is going to change that and not in five years.