A new role and a new audience face NBC’s “Today” anchor Katie Couric.Couric announced Wednesday that she would step down as the 15-year anchor of “Today” to join the “CBS Evening News,” which is currently anchored by Bob Schieffer, who was the moderator of “The Changing Communications Landscape” symposium Wednesday evening in the Student Center Ballroom.
Couric’s fate in her new capacity will be determined by viewer reaction.
“CBS Evening News” draws an audience of 7.5 million, where “Today” brings about 6 million.
Doug Newsom, professor of advertising/public relations with a degree in both broadcast and print journalism, said that because viewership has increased with Schieffer as the anchor, it will be interesting to watch the ratings when Couric comes on board.
“She is different,” Newsom said, “and she does have some followers and some people who are very critical, and Bob Schieffer doesn’t have that.”
With Schieffer being 69, the chances of having a permanent figure for the next several years is unlikely; however, hiring Couric, 49, is an attempt to ensure a long-standing replacement.
John Miller, instructor in journalism and former news director of WFAA in Dallas, said CBS made a wise decision with Couric in planning for the future, while also selecting someone who he said will be taken seriously.
“She has incredible recognition,” Miller said. “She’s well-known and popular. She would be on anyone’s top 5 list of TV news personalities.”
Couric’s widespread familiarity and being the first woman to be chosen for a sole-anchor position on a network evening news program may help her ratings, some of the symposium attendees said.
Rebecca Hughes, a senior advertising/public relations major, said that although she is personally not fond of Couric as a journalist, having a woman as lead anchor of an evening network news program is a positive move.
“It has the potential to change the viewers’ perspective,” Hughes said.
However, because Couric is typically associated with light-hearted events, such as dressing in costume on national television for Halloween, her transition into a hard-news role could pose as a challenge.
“It will change the face of CBS,” said Brieanna Rhynsburger, senior advertising/public relations major, adding that the transition is not necessarily a good or bad thing.
“It may be difficult for some to take her seriously,” she said.
But Miller said CBS has surely done its research and Couric will adapt to CBS’s style.
“It will not be the “Today” show at 5:30 in the afternoon,” Miller said.
Although Schieffer acknowledged his difference in style from Couric’s, he said they are both dedicated to the news, and a program should be about the news and not the individual.
CBS will build its strengths around Couric, Schieffer said, as it would any anchor.