Katie Couric will report from Iraq and Syria next week for the CBS Evening News. Couric is due to leave for Baghdad Wednesday night and will spend five days on the ground reporting before her first broadcast.
She'll report from Baghdad Sept. 4 -5 and Damascus Sept. 6-7.
Timed to the release of Gen. David Patraeus' status report on the U.S. military “surge” in Iraq—scheduled to be delivered to the administration Sept. 15—the trip has been in the works for six weeks and was planned with the cooperation of the U.S. military, said Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
"We have a real mission in mind here," said Kaplan. "The timing of this is really simple. We wanted to do something the week prior to [Gen. Patraeus'] report to the president because that's going to have a dramatic impact on American policy in Iraq and American presence in Iraq. [We] came to the conclusion that this really is the only way we can get the story told right. And we want people to get used to fact that the CBS Evening News is going to do what it needs to do to report the news."
Kaplan and Chris Isham, CBS News Washington bureau chief, will accompany Couric.
Most of each night's broadcast will be consumed by stories from the region. CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan will file several pieces from Iraq for next week's broadcasts. (Early Show anchor Harry Smith will fill in on the anchor desk in New York in Couric's absence.)
Security has been a major obstacle in the reporting from Iraq. The hotel where the CBS News Baghdad bureau is housed was bombed in June and last week an Iraqi translator who had worked for CBS News for ten months was kidnapped and murdered. In May 2006, soundman James Brolin and cameraman Paul Douglas killed in an attack that left correspondent Kimberly Dozier with severe injuries. (Dozier has since recovered.)
Couric is the first broadcast anchor to travel to Iraq since NBC's Brian Williams staged the Nightly News from inside Baghdad's Green Zone in March. Prior to that, former ABC World News co-anchor Bob Woodruff was severely injured in an IED attack while traveling with the Iraqi Army in January 2006.
"We've learned a lot from our colleagues, sometimes for things that we've done really right and sometimes from things they didn't," said Kaplan. "But all of them are lessons. God knows this is a network that has had its share of heartbreak there. We've learned from that. We're not going to take unnecessary risks. But we think it's worth it for the level of the story."