- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Katie Couric announced yesterday that she will step down as co-host of NBC’s “Today” show to become anchor and managing editor of “The CBS Evening News,” possibly bringing a more liberal tilt and higher ratings to her new network.

“I know it’s the worst-kept secret in America,” Miss Couric said during the mawkish interlude, crediting her heart and gut for the decision and advising partner Matt Lauer, “You are going to be so sick of me … you’re going to be like, ‘goodbye, already.’”

And although the transition has been treated like a momentous cultural moment by much of the press, not everyone agrees with its significance.

“CBS blew a golden opportunity to upgrade its evening news,” said L. Brent Bozell III of the Media Research Center yesterday. “CBS chose the perky, likable and politically liberal Katie Couric, whose biases will only reinforce CBS’s reputation as a network riddled with liberally biased reporting.”

“I’m not enthusiastic about it. I think everybody likes Katie Couric,” CBS personality Andy Rooney said in an MSNBC radio interview yesterday. “But I don’t know anybody at CBS News who is pleased that she’s coming here.”

CBS has lagged third in ratings behind ABC and NBC for a decade and was dogged by a credibility scandal in September 2004 after former anchorman Dan Rather broadcast a bogus “60 Minutes” story claiming President Bush had compromised his National Guard service.

The network retracted the report, fired four producers and Mr. Rather retired, replaced by veteran newsman Bob Schieffer, 69. In September, he’ll step aside as Miss Couric, 49, assumes the role of first solo female anchor in the history of television.

She acknowledged that it was “terrifying to get out of your comfort zone.” Her replacement on NBC is rumored to be Meredith Vieira, co-host of ABC’s late-morning talk show “The View,” according to several press reports.

Executives at NBC, where Miss Couric was paid $15 million a year, brimmed with well wishes yesterday. CBS brass offered unrestrained praise, while Mr. Schieffer said he “couldn’t be happier.”

Unless the network overhauls its news format, the honey-haired host must trade cushy chat for hard news.

Her 15 years on “Today” consisted of feel-good fare punctuated by almost daily zingers against Republican guests and conservative issues. She once opened a show by calling former President Ronald Reagan “an airhead.” Miss Couric did not hide her enthusiasm for Democrats and liberal causes, or her distaste for the war in Iraq.

When Rep. Nancy Pelosi became House minority leader, Miss Couric’s message to the California Democrat was “You go, girl.” Her comment to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Iraq: “It must be very frustrating at times to see things unraveling so.” In recent interviews, she also praised former President Bill Clinton and wife Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, for their candor with the American public.

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