Katie Couric Debuts Tuesday on CBS

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By DAVID BAUDER
The Associated Press
Monday, September 4, 2006; 1:46 PM

NEW YORK -- With a rebuilt newsroom behind her and new theme music from an Academy Award-winning composer, Katie Couric is set to make the most talked-about debut of the fall television season Tuesday on the "CBS Evening News."

CBS hopes that many of the viewers who watched Couric in the morning during her 15 years at NBC's "Today" show will stay with her in the evening, lifting a broadcast that has spent several years in the ratings basement.

Tuesday caps a tumultuous two years for network evening newscasts. For more than two decades, the networks had been the TV homes of Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather. Now, Couric will compete against Brian Williams at the top-rated NBC "Nightly News" and Charles Gibson at ABC's "World News."

It's part of a season of changes for TV. Rosie O'Donnell makes her debut on the daytime talk show "The View" Tuesday, Meredith Vieira replaces Couric on "Today" next week, and a brand new network _ the CW _ will shortly put the WB and UPN out of business.

CBS cleared out the newsroom at its headquarters on Manhattan's West Side this summer and built a new one that will be used for Couric's set. James Horner, who composed the music for "Titanic," wrote new music for the evening news theme. Couric even went on a six-city "listening tour" to hear what viewers want on the news.

Legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite recorded an introduction for Tuesday's show, but it still wasn't clear Monday whether it would be used, spokeswoman Sandra Genelius said.

Anticipating the debut of the first woman hired to solely anchor a network evening newscast, folks in the TV news industry have obsessed over everything from what Couric will wear to how serious a demeanor she will present coming from the often silly world of morning TV.

Expect a few new wrinkles in the newscast, like a regular commentary segment featuring outsiders called "Free Speech."

Couric may also have hinted at a new style during a brief appearance Thursday on Bob Schieffer's final broadcast as anchor after a year and a half. Evening newscasts have infrequently featured one-on-one interviews, but Couric briefly chatted with Schieffer on camera while the two sat in director's chairs in front of the new set.

She appeared later that night at a cocktail party at a midtown Manhattan restaurant to honor Schieffer, who will contribute commentary to the newscast and continue as "Face the Nation" host.

"I can't imagine following in the footsteps of a kinder, more gracious person," Couric said.

Besides Tuesday's newscast, CBS is setting up a flashy launch for Couric. She's scheduled to interview President Bush at the White House on Wednesday for a prime-time special, and her first "60 Minutes" report about the toxic fallout from the World Trade Center collapse is set for Sunday.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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