Today show co-anchor Katie Couric made it official Wednesday, announcing on the show that she will be leaving at the end of May to join the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes.
She will become anchor and managing editor of the CBS newscast, the first solo female anchor of a network nightly newscast. CBS says she will take over full time in September, though she may appear before then as well.
“I’m personally so excited that Katie Couric is coming to the CBS News family,” said CBS President Leslie Moonves. “With this move, our news division takes yet another giant leap forward."
The always classy Bob Schieffer said of his successor: “I couldn’t be happier. Katie and I have been friends for years. She’s going to be a terrific addition to CBS News. I think we’re going to love Katie, and I think Katie’s going to love us.” Schieffer, who has been commuting between Washington and New York, has said from the outset that his stint replacing Dan Rather in the anchor chair was temporary.
The announcement, which Couric conceded was the worst-kept secret in the business, was prefaced with tape of her first broadcast on Today, exactly 15 years before.
Couric is the longest-serving anchor in the show's history.
Couric said the decision was tough but that it was also exciting to get out of her comfort zone. She also did not initially mention the CBS gig. When pressed by Lauer, she initially said she was going to open a used book store in Montana, then conceded what everyone already knew, that she was heading to CBS. But not before what Lauer said would be a big farewell party.
Saying it sounded corny, Couric avowed that the sense of a Today "family" was not just "a cheesy promotional device." She said she would miss the crew and co-workers. And she said of her co-host, Matt Lauer, "As Dorothy said of the Scarecrow, 'I think I am going to miss you most of all."
No announcement of a replacement, though NBC is said to be trying to get ABC's Meredith Vieira to take over Couric's Today post. Vieira co-hosts daytime talker, The View, and hosts the syndicated game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. But she is also a former correspondent with a shelf full of Emmys from her days at 60 Minutes.
Couric's departure and move to CBS has been anticipated for well over a year. B&C reported back in December 2004, when Rather was still in the saddle, that Bob Schieffer could be named an interim anchor, with CBS likely to court Couric.
NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker, who once worked as the executive producer on Today, said of couric's move: "When Katie and I first teamed up on the Today show 15 years ago this week, I never would have dreamed that we would be lucky enough to have her on the program as long as we have and that she would become the longest serving co-anchor of the program in its history.
"But there comes a time for everyone, when new challenges become hard to resist, and I fully understand that."
The sentiment was echoed by NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright. "Katie Couric has had an immensely positive impact both on this company and on the public at large," he said in a statement. "Her extraordinary work as a journalist and an advocate for critical health issues has made a difference in the lives of millions of viewers."--Allison Romano contributed to this report.