Man, this morning news business is one tough racket! Diva Mariah Carey, who was booked to sing on the premiere of CBS's new "Early Show" Monday morning, has bailed at the eleventh hour and--as if that wasn't bad enough--booked instead on Monday's "Today" show on NBC.

Ouch!

Carey, who'd been scheduled to promote her new album on the CBS show for weeks, took a powder when "Early Show" couldn't produce the city permits needed for the outdoor concert by Wednesday evening. This was too bad because, just the day before, CBS execs had told a bevy of reporters touring the show's new $30 million street-front digs that Carey would perform two songs live, outdoors, on Monday's broadcast.

"We're heartbroken we couldn't work it out, but at some point we had to move on," said the singer's publicist, Jennifer Glaisek.

Since the concert couldn't be promoted until the permits were in hand, Carey's people set a deadline: permits by end of workday Wednesday or Carey walks.

"Wednesday night at 6 p.m. we said we have to move on. We've been waiting for two months. . . . Two months is ample time to get a permit," Glaisek said. "Early Show" senior executive producer Steve Friedman says the permit was issued shortly thereafter, but when they called Carey's people, they were told, "The boat has sailed, you lose, goodbye."

She had been booked on "Today" in under an hour.

Glaisek doesn't fault CBS for the turn of events, saying, "They were stuck in some bureaucratic game."

Friedman doesn't harbor the same warm feelings for Carey's "people."

"Mariah Carey's people wanted to see a written permit and put a deadline on it that we couldn't possibly meet," he said.

"The city does what it wants to do when it wants to do it. But they never said there would be a problem," he added.

Interesting that "Today" took on Carey so fast, since that show's executive producer, Jeff Zucker, had said he would not book celebs who were repped by Pat Kingsley, a partner in Carey's public relations firm. Zucker made that pledge after Kingsley client Calista Flockhart backed out of a "Today" show appearance at the last minute because the news show wouldn't promise to refrain from asking the Skinny One questions about her lack of weight.

A "Today" rep said yesterday that ban applied only to Kingsley's own personal clients, not to all people represented by her firm, PMK.

Right.

So now, Friedman's a guy with a permit and no singer. Or maybe not. He won't say, joking that he's changed the name of the program from "The Early Show" to "The Top-Secret Show."

"At 8:36 a.m. we'll have something to put on television--and it will be damned good," Friedman said.

About 24 million people watched NBC's coverage of the four-game World Series sweep by the New York Yankees of the Atlanta Braves. That's about 3 million more than watched last year's four-game Yankees sweep of the San Diego Padres.

That series, seen on Fox, was the least watched World Series ever.

Wednesday's final game bagged about 26 million viewers, compared with the 22 million who tuned in to Game 1.

TNT will attempt to turn "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand's 1,172-page 1957 novel espousing objectivism, into a four-hour miniseries.

Albert S. Ruddy, one of the producers of the movie "The Godfather," will executive-produce the $15 million to $21 million drama.

Ruddy, whose TV credits include "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "Hogan's Heroes," first tried to get the rights to "Atlas Shrugged" from Rand 25 years ago, according to the trade paper Variety. But Rand insisted on final script approval and the talks stopped there.

Rand died in 1982. Ruddy recently bought the rights and expects to begin production on the miniseries this summer.

Susan Black, a writer on HBO's "State of Emergency," will write the screenplay.

The amount of enterprise reporting on local TV news broadcasts appears to have declined sharply, according to a report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism issued yesterday.

The study ranked newscasts at 59 stations in 19 cities over two weeks earlier this year, according to the Associated Press. Its definition of enterprise included investigative stories and reports produced at a reporter's initiative, instead of just reactions to events.

More than 80 percent of the stations received a "D" or failing grade in the study. A similar study last year gave a quarter of the stations such low scores.

Nine out of 10 stories on local TV news originate from police scanners or planned news events, the study found. Crime news is still easily the most popular topic, but its percentage on local broadcasts dropped from 28 percent last year to 22 percent.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism is affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Its study was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

CAPTION: Mariah Carey bails from CBS's "Early Show."