At CBS, a Public Show of Support for Couric

CBS's Les Moonves,
CBS's Les Moonves, "proud" of Couric. (Evan Agostini - AP)
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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 19, 2008

CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves gave his embattled anchor and her news division a vote of confidence yesterday, telling a staff meeting that Katie Couric "is my anchor today, tomorrow and in the future."

But the public display does not change the reality that Couric is likely to relinquish the anchor chair after the election, according to two top network executives who declined to be named discussing a private meeting.

Moonves asked to address the Friday staff meeting, held at the CBS News offices in New York and broadcast to network bureaus around the world, out of concern that Couric is being portrayed as a lame duck and that his support for the news division is the subject of media speculation. He said he was "proud" of Couric and that CBS was lucky to have her. Moonves said he cared about the ratings of the third-place "CBS Evening News" "as much as I care about 'CSI's' ratings."

CBS News President Sean McManus followed with a spirited pep talk, saying the news division has been bringing in new talent and he was tired of reading that he has a shortage of talent compared with the other networks. McManus also dismissed as ridiculous a recent report in the New York Times that CBS is considering outsourcing some of its newsgathering to CNN.

The sources said Moonves and McManus were attempting to shore up morale in the news division during a period of unfavorable publicity related to Couric's loss of viewers since leaving NBC to take the anchor job in September 2006. They said she should not be written off, because no final decision has been made on replacing her early next year, although that remains the likely outcome.

Despite recent speculation, it is unlikely that Couric would leave the newscast soon because CBS is responsible for her $15 million annual salary and has not lined up a successor.

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