CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus says that, while the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric "may have started off a little soft," he is happy with where the show is today and doesn’t plan any major changes in the near future.
"There was talk in the beginning about the nature of the show and it being a little soft, and we may have started off a little soft," he says. "But I think, if you look at the show now, the mix is where it should be and it is as hard as any other newscast at 6:30. We said from day one the show that you see in September is going to be very different than what you see in January or February, and it is."
McManus also acknowledges the idea, as recently voiced by Larry King in B&C (1/15, p. 9), that gender may play a role in Couric’s ratings challenges.
"I think it is a fact there are probably people, both men and women, who are perhaps uncomfortable having a woman anchor the news," McManus says. "The way she is scrutinized, I think sometimes unfairly, quite frankly, I think a lot of that has to do with gender. I think she has to worry about a lot of things the male anchor doesn’t have to worry about, things like how she looks or what she is wearing."
A source close to CBS News says no major shakeups are in the works and Executive Producer Rome Hartman is not under fire.
McManus also is preaching stability. "There are no major changes we are going to make in the near future; it will just continue to evolve. The show you see now is pretty much what you are going to see."
And noting that it took Tom Brokaw "well over 10 years to get to No. 1," he maintains that the network expected the numbers to return to current levels after an initial boost. "The media may be losing some patience, but none of us at CBS are losing patience," he says., Because none of us expected to be in a much different position than we are in right now."
CBS will make its newest franchise player a big part of its Super Bowl presence in Miami. Couric will anchor the Evening News from there on Friday, Feb. 2 and contribute a piece to the pre-game show on Sunday.
As of now, the story is scheduled to be a feature on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, but if the New Orleans Saints qualify for the Super Bowl, McManus says, CBS may use Couric on some sort of post-Katrina story.
"But that would be a tough decision," he adds, "because to do it the right way she would need to be in New Orleans for a couple days and it would be tough to take her off of the Evening News."