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Larry King Interviews Friends and Colleagues of Katie Couric

Aired April 5, 2006 - 21:00   ET


KATIE COURIC: I wanted to tell all of you out there who have watched the show for the past 15 years that after listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past, I've decided I'll be leaving "Today" at the end of May.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Katie Couric finally makes it official and makes broadcast history. The queen of morning TV will become the first woman ever to anchor a network nightly newscast by herself.

We'll get reaction from her friends, family and colleagues with legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, known as the most trusted man in America when he anchored the "CBS Evening News" for 20 years.

Fred Francis, my old buddy from Miami, former NBC news correspondent and long-time friend of Katie Couric; Katie's nephew filmmaker Jeff Wadlow; and, Pat Mitchell, the one time public broadcasting chief and now president of the Museum of TV and Radio, also a long-time friend of Katie's; and "Washington Post" media reporter Howard Kurtz.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. A historic day in broadcasting, Katie Couric picked today, the 15th anniversary of her first day as co-host of "The Today Show" to announce that she's leaving NBC at the end of May to jump to CBS.

On the air this morning she jokingly called it the worst kept secret in Amerca. Katie will become anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News" and the first woman ever to be the sole anchor of a broadcast network nightly newscast. She'll also contribute to CBS' "60 Minutes."

And, she follows a great line of broadcasters, Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer. And we welcome to kick things off tonight before we meet our panel the legendary newsman himself Walter Cronkite. Walter, what's your first reaction to this?

WALTER CRONKITE ANCHORED CBS EVENING NEWS: Well I am delighted that CBS is going to have her great talents on our evening news broadcast. I'm pleased that she will be managing editor as well as the broadcaster. She has proved her abilities as a journalist over the last several years. I think we are exceedingly lucky to have her with us.

I'm sorry to see Schieffer leaving. He did a great job. But I gather that he didn't really want to continue and, at any rate, we've got a first rater taking his place.

KING: There's no question in your mind that Katie is a bona fide news person?

CRONKITE: None whatsoever. I remember watching her in her very earliest days an occasional appearance on the news and I thought then that she had a great deal of talent because she not only had a great deal of talent but is a very beautiful lady. I thought she'd probably go along in this business eventually.

KING: You told me once that one of the things you didn't like so much about being a television news anchor was you didn't like being a celebrity. Now you have a classic celebrity coming in, any downside to that?

CRONKITE: Well, I would think there could be. It depends on how the individual conducts themselves. If she is serious about her role as a journalist and acts the part of a journalist and does not let fame get in her way I think she will be great.

Now, she certainly has had fame in her "Today Show" appearances and therefore I would assume that she's well prepared to hold her part as a journalist on the evening news.

KING: Do you buy anything to the concept that an evening news anchor should be a man that if you're going to deliver news of war it should be from a male voice?

CRONKITE: Well, in the interest of keeping my friends among the male group, I would say that males do a very good job at that but I'm obviously ducking the question.

KING: Yes.

CRONKITE: I think that a talented woman, talented as a journalist not just as a show person, can do it as well as a man could do it.

KING: How about the suggestion in some circles that anchors, network anchors, cable anchors are becoming, in a sense, dinosaurs? The world is changing. News is changing and network news is certainly changing, do you buy any of that?

CRONKITE: Yes, I buy that. I buy that but I think the figures show it that we're losing audience to the Internet popularity apparently. That seems to be the culprit we're all looking at as our ratings slide somewhat in the network business of journalism. So, I think we have to be prepared for perhaps even more wastage on our group as the other sources of news proliferate.

KING: What, Walter, and I assume you feel Katie will fit this bill, what makes a great anchor?

CRONKITE: Oh, someone like me.

KING: Good shot.

CRONKITE: Actually what it takes is being a good journalist, being a good news writer, a good reporter. All of those features are needed in the individual that's going to play the part of the anchor person. When I say play the part I'm not trying to suggest that it's show business. It may have a certain edge of that but the successful journalist, the successful anchor person, will be one who is a good journalist.

KING: We're going to spend some more moments with Walter Cronkite and then meet our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be back right after this.


MATT LAUER, CO-HOST "THE TODAY SHOW": Wow, so many days, anything new?

COURIC: Well not really, Matt, actually. Actually there are some things that are new and I guess this is the appropriate time for me to share my future plans. I wanted to tell all of you out there who have watched the show for the past 15 years that after listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past, I've decided I'll be leaving "Today" at the end of May.

It was really a very difficult decision for a lot of different reasons. First of all because of the connection I feel with you. I know I don't know the vast majority of you personally and it may sound kind of corny but I really feel as if we've become friends through the years and you've been with me during a lot of good times and some very difficult ones as well and hopefully I've been there for you. I can't tell you how grateful I am for the support you all have given me and so appreciative that you've included me in your morning routines.




COURIC: Another reason that this decision was so difficult is my relationships with the people on this wonderful show and I'm thinking about the crew and the control room and all my friends at NBC across the street.

You know the notion that we're a family is not just some cheesy promotional device. I really care deeply about the people here from everyone who works behind the scenes to the faces that are familiar to all of you, like Al and Ann and, yes of course, Matt.

Once in a while we get on each other's nerves, well he gets on my nerves but I could not have asked for a more talented partner or better friend. And just as Dorothy said to the scarecrow I think I'm going to miss him most of all. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Walter Cronkite begins things with us tonight. We'll meet our panel in a couple of moments. Walter, do you think this might pave the way for other women in broadcast network news anchoring?

CRONKITE: Well, I would think so, yes. However, they already have had places in network news, just not the solo appearance that she will have. They've shared the podium with other -- with men. The uniqueness in this is that she will be the sole anchor but she proved her skill in that so I don't think we have to be concerned.

KING: Do you have any envy, for want of a better word, about $15 million a year?

CRONKITE: Well now that is envy, yes. I place my envy right before you.

KING: What's the most you made there if I may ask?

CRONKITE: Under a million dollars.

KING: Under a million?

CRONKITE: Under a million as the anchorman and it was a very satisfactory salary I thought at the time until the million dollar fellows came in. I call myself the -- well never mind what I call myself.

KING: Did you, and Katie is going to have it now as do all the anchors do, network and cable, did you enjoy the power?

CRONKITE: Yes, I think so. I wasn't really aware of the power as I did or put together our daily offering and appeared before the camera and was on many remote broadcasts, of course, carried the political conventions for the first time, was one of the great moments of my journalism career.

But power I didn't really recognize it as power. I knew we could perhaps be momentarily influential on a certain subject but as power, power suggests to me that whatever we did could turn the fate of nations.

KING: Right.

CRONKITE: And I don't really believe we ever had that power.

KING: You certainly did with the Vietnam War. Johnson quoted you.

CRONKITE: Well that's true and I'm very proud of that piece that I did but I don't -- I suppose in a circumstance much like the Vietnam War, for instance right now with our war in the Middle East, if a reporter came in and did a powerful enough piece that the government would decide that we better get out of there, we'd have certainly a great and I think a welcome sense of power. KING: What do you think of it looks like Meredith Vieira will be her replacement at "The Today Show" and Meredith used to work at CBS and now is one of the hosts of "The View." How do you think she'll do?

CRONKITE: Well I think she'll do quite well. She's certainly proved her talent in the years gone by so I would imagine that she's going to continue to be good at what she does.

KING: Are you going to call Katie at all, Walter?


KING: Going to call Katie?

CRONKITE: I've tried but I haven't gotten her on the phone yet.

KING: You can't get -- we'll get you through. We've got clout.

CRONKITE: All right.

KING: Thanks, Walter.

CRONKITE: You bet.

KING: Walter Cronkite, following in a great line of network newscasters, broadcast network newscasters and now along comes Katie.

We'll meet our panel right after this. Don't go away.


COURIC: It's been such an honor and a privilege to occupy this seat for as long as I have. One of the things I've always appreciated about "The Today Show" is its rich tradition and its place in history. In January it celebrated its 54th anniversary.

Not only was I thrilled that the show was actually older than I am but I was also reassured that this is an institution that will continue to grow and thrive because of all the extraordinarily dedicated people who work here and care about this show as passionately as I do.

But sometimes I think change is a good thing. Although it may be terrifying to get out of your comfort zone it's also very exciting to start a new chapter in your life. So, for now it's not goodbye, at least not yet, but a heartfelt thank you for 15 great years.

LAUER: Also coming up in this half hour...




TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: On a personal note, all the best.

COURIC: Ah, thank you Tom.

BROKAW: A very exciting time.

COURIC: Thank you.

BROKAW: Big challenge and you've been hugely important to us here.

COURIC: Well thanks.

BROKAW: And it doesn't mean personal connections go away.

COURIC: No absolutely not, I sure hope not.


COURIC: Thanks, Tom.


KING: Welcome back.

Let's meet our panel. In Washington, Fred Francis, long-time personal friend, professional colleague of Katie Couric and Fred and I worked together in Miami for many years. He was an NBC News correspondent for three decades and he announced his retirement on "The Today Show."

Here in L.A. Jeff Wadlow, he is Katie Couric's nephew, son of Katie's late sister, Virginia State Senator Emily Couric. He's an award- winning filmmaker, directed and co-wrote the 2005 horror thriller "Cry Wolf," also directed the 2004 animated short "Catching Kringle" in which I was honored to appear and which has won many awards.

In New York is Pat Mitchell, President and CEO of the Museum of Television and Radio, former President and CEO of Public Broadcasting Service, PBS, and long-time friend of Katie's.

And, at the newsroom of "The Washington Post" is Howard Kurtz, the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," media reporter for "The Washington Post," and a "New York Times" best-selling author.

Fred, how big a story is this?

FRED FRANCIS, FMR. NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: For our industry, for television, it's huge. It's not a total surprise. CBS was leaning this way for a long time. They just had to get Katie to lean this way.

But it's huge. I mean it opens the door for not just Katie Couric but to revitalize, you know, the Tiffany Network and I think she can do that. It will never be like it was when Walter was there and when you and I started in Miami 40 years ago. But it's huge for CBS. It's huge for Katie. And, it's huge for broadcast journalism.

KING: Jeff Wadlow, the nephew of Katie, had you been speaking to her during this period of decision? JEFF WADLOW, FILMMAKER, KATIE COURIC'S NEPHEW: Yes. Everyone in the family has been talking to her about it because everyone has an opinion certainly in my family.

KING: What was yours?

WADLOW: I thought it sounded like a great idea but I don't know if she was necessarily listening to me or necessarily anyone in the family because she really was consulting her gut. And, I think as she got closer to the decision she talked to my grandparents, her parents, and her daughters and she sort of reached a consensus and made the call.

KING: She would have certainly counseled your mom.

WADLOW: Yes, I think so. My mom was her older sister. She was the oldest of four and Katie is the youngest of four, so they had a great older sister/younger sister relationship.

KING: Is she a good aunt, Katie?

WADLOW: Katie is the best aunt, the best aunt anyone could ask for. She's been a tremendous mentor to me and I love her dearly.

KING: Pat Mitchell, now president of the -- rather, president and CEO of the Museum of Television and Radio, great institution there in New York, what do you make of this?

PAT MITCHELL, PRESIDENT, MUSEUM OF TV AND RADIO: Oh, it's great news, Larry. I mean not only because Katie's going to make history as the first woman to sit in the anchor chair but because she's going to make history by changing network news.

You know you asked Walter a great question, Larry. You said, you know, what makes a great network news anchor and he said "Me." And I was sitting here thinking of course that's a great answer because Walter was trusted, warm, engaging, a great reporter, someone who allowed the audience to know his feelings when the story deserved that and that's why America loved and trusted him.

Well, Katie Couric is Walter Cronkite. She's all those things except she brings an addition to that, a different gender, a different voice, a different full set of experiences, not only as a skilled journalist and reporter but as a wife and a mother and someone who's known tragedy and happiness and all of it Katie brings to the great art of storytelling and reporting the news. So, she's going to change the face of the news in more ways than one.

KING: At one time in your long career, Pat, was this one of your goals? Would you have wanted to be what she is tonight?

MITCHELL: I'm sure I must have at some point, Larry, but you know in 1976 I was one of the first women who was hired to anchor a local newscast. And interesting enough, Larry, the same questions that are being raised about Katie's appointment were raised then. I'll never forget there was a Boston cover of the Boston magazine with all the pictures of the women who were anchoring local news, which was not very many, about three I think, and the questions were brainy, bitchy, bossy, blond.

Now I mean 1976, Larry, and it's 2006 and we are -- you know we're still raising these questions about, you know, can a woman be brainy and yes blond and can a woman be smart and, yes, have a laugh and smile every now and then? Can a woman have a family and be a great reporter?

You know just that part of it is sort of sad that the questions are still being raised but the audience is not going to raise those questions. The audience is going to be there for Katie.

KING: Pat Mitchell, who was by the way great in various jobs here at CNN.

Howard Kurtz, the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," one of my favorite shows by the way.


KING: Media reporter for "The Washington Post," a "New York Times" best-selling author, how big a story is this tomorrow in the Post?

KURTZ: Huge and it was on the front page yesterday when I was able to say that this was about to happen. You know I've heard some people say today, Larry that only TV insiders are obsessed with this story.

That's not right. Everybody is buzzing about this story. My mother is interested in this story because Katie is more than an accomplished journalist and she is a bona fide celebrity. "People" magazine follows her exploits and that sort of thing.

The real question here is not about her journalistic credentials. I mean she's interviewed presidential candidates and world leaders on "The Today Show." It is how you take her set of skills, which gets the chance to kind of breathe in the morning where she can sing and dance and ski and play tennis and how you translate that into the rather cramped half hour environment of an evening newscast.

The answer, according to people around her and people at CBS is you change the newscast in order to play to her strengths but how much they can do that is what we will all be waiting to see.

KING: In other words, Howard, if it's the normal run she'll be on camera, what, five, six minutes?

KURTZ: And tossing to taped pieces that have already been scripted and so forth, you know. Bob Schieffer started to change that newscast in the 13 months since he took over.

KING: Yes.

KURTZ: He threw out some of the taped pieces and he just talked. He talked to the reporters. "Well tell me what you think about this" in a very conversational style.

I think we'll see Katie do more of that. I think we'll see more live interviews, again one of her strengths with newsmakers. And, I think we'll see her travel more to various hotspots to bring some of that morning magic to the evening hour.

KING: Fred Francis, I asked Walter this. I'll ask you it. There's a major war. Will the public buy a woman anchoring the story?

FRANCIS: Oh, absolutely. I mean they did with Katie all those years on "The Today Show." You know the ratings soar, as we know, at CNN and NBC and CBS whenever there's a war, whenever there's conflict, whenever there's a terrorist attack and people watch. They don't just watch the evening news. They watch the morning news. They watch it around the clock with the advent of cable.

And they've watched Katie Couric and when you see the ratings on CNN spike when there's war and when there's terrorism they really spike on "The Today Show" and it's not just to get the information but it's to get the information from reporters and anchors that are part of your family that you like. Katie's that person. They watch "The Today Show."

The ratings when we were there just spiked during, first when she first went on in the Gulf War in the early '90s and then, you know, when I was in Iraq in the last war the ratings were sky high and they're watching Katie Couric. So, they'll watch her in the evening and so much of that coverage is round-the-clock coverage.

First of all, Larry, she's easy to look at. She's very, very smart. She will take no guff from anybody, not a general, not a president. She tough and the key thing with Katie Couric, and I've seen it on "The Today Show." I saw it at the Pentagon when she joined me there in 1989, 1990. She inspires loyalty, so that's the first thing she's going to have to do at CBS inspire that loyalty.

KING: Yes. Let me get a break. We'll get a break and come back with more, lots more to go with our outstanding panel. Don't go away.


COURIC: Welcome to "Today" on this Wednesday morning, a morning people are waking up in disbelief with heavy hearts especially those who have lost loved ones or who are uncertain where their loved ones are at this hour. I'm Katie Couric.

LAUER: Katie, I have -- I don't think I've ever seen a more compelling and emotional interview than the one you just conducted between Mr. Shoals (ph) and Craig Scott.

COURIC: (INAUDIBLE) Matt and I think these two men, this father and this young man really sum up the agony of this entire community, a father who has lost his son in such a senseless tragedy and a young man who had to face things that really people only face in combat situations.




LAUER: Talk about, talk about mixed emotions. First of all I hope you know that everyone here across the street we feel the same way about you and echo your sentiments and mixed emotions because it's hard to imagine being here and not having you sitting next to us.

COURIC: Oh, thanks.

LAUER: But also we're thrilled for the fact that you're going to take on a new challenge. I'm looking did it say anywhere in there about where you're going?

COURIC: Well, at this point I'm thinking about opening up a secondhand bookstore in Montana.

LAUER: If you were a guest on the show I wouldn't let you get away without saying, so what are your plans?

COURIC: I am. Well, I know it's the worst kept secret in America but I'm going to be working on the CBS Evening News and "60 Minutes." And I'm excited about it.

LAUER: Congratulations.

COURIC: But I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss everybody.


KING: Jeff Wadlow, film producer, film writer and Katie's nephew, is there a danger of this going to her head?

JEFF WADLOW, FILMMAKER, KATIE COURIC'S NEPHEW: Oh, I don't think so at all. Katie is incredibly humble and modest. And I don't think there's any chance of it whatsoever, no.

KING: Were you with her -- did you go through it when her husband died?

WADLOW: I was at Dartmouth when Jay, my uncle, passed away, and I actually moved in with Katie and the girls a year afterwards.

KING: Oh you did?

WADLOW: Yes, right when I finished school. She called me up and hey, why don't you come live with us? It's a sort of a sorority here right now, and I would love to just have a male presence in the house. So it was an amazing year for me. It was profound. I learned so much about family and loss and life and grew incredibly close to Katie and to her two daughters.

KING: She handled that very well, did she not? WADLOW: I think she handled it and that's all you can hope for in a situation like that.

KING: Pat Mitchell, the hard news aspect of Katie, we've seen her a lot do it and of course the 9/11s and the special stories but "The Today Show" is basically interludes of short interviews. That's its basic format. She's not network news, broadcast network news. Do you have any question about her being up to it?

MITCHELL: Oh, absolutely not, Larry. I mean, look at breadth and the scope of the stories that Katie has covered over the last 15 years. And, you know, I think we've stopped asking whether our commander in chief of this country has to have been on the front lines of war to believe that he can make the right decisions about war and peace.

And certainly Katie has been there for the important stories of our time. What makes her different is something that Jeff was alluding to as well. Katie is very self-aware but not self-involved, so she engages people, whether it's the president of the United States or the other world leaders she has talked to or whether it is a father who just lost a son.

We believe her because she is authentic. She speaks in an authentic voice, and you and I know, Larry, if you're going to be on this medium night after night using the power of television to communicate, you've got to have that authenticity. People have got to believe you're real, and that is the one thing that you have to know about Katie Couric is she's real and she cares and she's smart. And as Fred said too, you know, no one's going to pull anything over on Katie. She's also going to get the facts.

KING: You're not kidding. Howard Kurtz, do you have any questions about this move? Let's say, audience size? Will CBS go through the roof?

HOWARD KURTZ, WASHINGTON POST MEDIA REPORTER; HOST; "RELIABLE SOURCES": Well, it's very hard to say. I mean, CBS Evening News has been in third place for a long time. Obviously, they are going to pay Katie Couric a lot of money in order to try to get those ratings up but also to maybe change the newscast.

You know, these newscasts have been on for 50 years and basically the format hasn't changed very much. So it's not just that she's a woman, it's not just that she's coming from morning television, it's that she apparently in the negotiations with CBS, based on my reporting today, has a lot of ideas about updating and reinvigorating a newscast, which might end up, you know being be a model for others.

I do have to tell you that there is a significant faction in CBS News that was not in favor of this. In fact, Andy Rooney, who has been on "60 Minutes" for about 100 years said this morning he was not excited about this. A lot of people just liked Schieffer and they hoped that Schieffer could continue. Although Schieffer himself did not want the job permanently, and Bob encouraged Katie to come to CBS. So, she has to, you know -- it's hard coming from another network after so many years. She has got to win the loyalty of the troops. She has got to see what she can do to change the newscasts. And, you know, T.V. critics will be looking at the numbers to see whether she can get the ratings up.

MITCHELL: Larry, could I add?

KING: Yes, go ahead, Pat.

MITCHELL: Well, I was just going to add to that, I think it's important to know that Katie is thinking about this as a huge opportunity to do just that with the CBS News team, change the news. Everything about our business has changed from the way we gather it to distribute news, and Katie's very aware of all this and has a lot of great ideas.

And, you know, I think she's going to be working with a team that understands here's an opportunity to truly change and engage again the public and the importance of that broadcast.

KING: Fred Francis, how did she get the job at "The Today Show?"

FRANCIS: Oh, that was interesting. She'd been working with me at the Pentagon for about six months, and I was absolutely, you know, beside myself that she was so good there, not so much that her reporting skills were so honed but people were very receptive to her. In a testosterone-laden building, admirals and generals fell all over themselves to meet her, to talk with her.

And "The Today Show" was having this terrible time trying to work out the Jane Pauley and Deborah Norville mess and that's what it was, it was a mess. And Bryant Gumbel was very, very unhappy. And Bryant was in Washington one night, and I said let's have dinner with Katie. I want you to meet her.

And we had dinner at a local restaurant not far from CNN studios here. And two hours into the dinner, they were finishing each other's sentences, and the next morning I called the suits in New York. And I said hey, you know, maybe it was the two bottles of wine, but I, you know, think we got a match here.

And it wasn't very long after that they moved her up to "The Today Show" to guest anchor, and that was 15 years ago. And, you know, it was a cool thing. I was very happy for her then.

You know, one thing that's just been previously said, she is so genuine. This stardom, people talking about it, well, it's going to go to her head. She's one of the biggest stars in America, if not the world now. It's not going to go to her head. This is what's going to attract viewers to CBS.

In big numbers, Larry, I don't think so. People just don't watch the evening newscast anymore, but will it raise CBS up? Oh, I think there's no doubt about it, and I think we'll see that in May, very shortly. KING: We'll take a break. As we go to break here was her first appearance on "The Today Show."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1991 a girl from Arlington, Virginia, officially hit the big time. Take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From NBC News, this is today with Bryant Gumbel, Katherine Couric and Joe Garagiola.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. And welcome to today on a Friday morning and to a new chapter of today. How did it sound?

COURIC: It sounded good. But I still can't decide whether I'm Katherine or Katie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alex re-rack it for us, will you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katherine Couric.

COURIC: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more time, Alex?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katherine Couric.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

COURIC: That's the one. There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In case you haven't gotten the message, Katie is now a permanent fixture up here, a member of our family and an especially welcome one.

LAUER: Permanent fixture. We should alert the folks from Guiness that Katie is now the longest-serving anchor in "Today Show" history.

COURIC: How about that?

LAUER: That is a lot of mornings young lady.

COURIC: I thought I started when it was black and white. Meanwhile, I think that was like 172 hair styles ago.




COURIC: Where do you find your strength every day?

NANCY REAGAN: I don't know, Katie. You just do what you have to do. Don't you? COURIC: I can't possibly meet expectations of perfection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I'd like to be able to disagree with you, but certainly a lot of those factors are things that I have considered.

COURIC: The thing I hate the most about myself is?

HILLARY CLINTON: Hmmm. Probably my impatience from, you know, time to time.


KING: We're back, Jeff. What was the influence of your grandfather? Katie's father, on her career?

WADLOW: I would say he's been the most influential person in her life, and her career. He was a journalist. He worked for The Atlanta Constitution, and The United Press and he is, without a doubt the smartest person I've ever met. He is an incredible, incredible intellect and my grandmother has also been tremendously influential is creative and clever and when you look at Katie you see how the two of them have shaped her personality and how that's really helped her in her field.

KING: How long did the Katherine Couric thing last?

WADLOW: I don't know, about five seconds. I think we saw the entire there. About two weeks actually.

KING: It certainly did not fit.

WADLOW: I think she was feeling serious when she got the big break and about a day later she realized she's going to be who she is no matter what happens.

KING: Katherine once worked here at CNN. Let's watch a clip of Katherine's work here.


COURIC: The telephone has dramatically changed the way goods and services are bought and sold today. And while it's unlikely that telephone sales will totally replace --

At St. James park in London a peculiar thing has happened, all the wild fowl (ph) have become neurotic.

Conservatives have an even tighter grip on the platform than they did four years ago.

Katherine Couric, CNN, Atlanta. .


KING: Pat Mitchell could you see the potential there? MITCHELL: Absolutely, but Katie tells the story, you know, that someone at CNN actually said to her after her first few reports, you know, honey, you really should go back on the news desk. You're really not going to make it on the air. So I'm sure whoever that person was, is --

WADLOW: It was Reid Schoenfeld (ph), the executive at CNN, actually called the control room at CNN and said, get her off the air.

MITCHELL: That's right. I forgotten that.

KING: And truth be told, Fred, I don't think Channel Four in Miami was very impressed.

FRANCIS: No, they weren't. As a matter of fact she was actually looking for work. They liked her. She could have stayed but she got this gig in Washington at the local station here in Washington, and after about six months there, started making her name.

First of all, she grew up in this area, grew up in Arlington. She knew the area and she knew people here and took that local station owned by NBC by storm. That's where I first saw her and Tim Russert of NBC bureau chief first saw her.

KING: Howard are critics going to be all over that first night?

KURTZ: The first night, the second night, the third night. That's what critics do. Katie is a bit of a lightning rod for critics. The people have criticized everything from her hair style to her perkiness, the word that is most often and unfortunately attached to her.

To go back to briefly something Fred Francis said when he said nobody watches the network evening news anymore. That's not quite right as I know Fred knows. Combined there's still about 25 million people who watch. It's still the biggest single game in town, but it's an older audience, average age roughly about 60, and that's something all of the networks are worried about, the audience will continue to shrink.

Look at what's happened in the last year and a half. We've gone from Dan, Tom and Peter, who occupied those chairs for two decades who were in their 60s and 70s and now we have Brian Williams at NBC in his 40s, Elizabeth Vargas and Bod Woodruff, who unfortunately is recuperating from his injury in Iraq. They're in their 40s. And now Katie, who's 49.

It really has been a generational changing of the guard. The question someone like me will ask is will younger people who can get their news from cable, Internet, iPods and cell phones be able to tap into the evening news? For that to happen it has to change.

KING: Will she get, Jeff, male and female in large numbers?

WADLOW: Yes, I think so because I think Katie's real talent lies in understanding the human aspect of the news. That's why people love her on "The Today Show" and why she'll do very well. She understands that's what the news is about and will convey that human story very well in a manner that will connect with people of all ages.

KING: Do you expect a lot of changes?

WADLOW: I think she's going to shake it up. I do. I think that's Katie's personality and I think that's what needs to happen, but at the same time I think she understand if it ain't broke don't fix it. There's going to be elements that work and there's a reason why they have worked for so long and she's going to keep them.

KING: We'll pick right up when I get back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our hearts are heavy.

COURIC: Thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have made a lasting imprint on this program.

COURIC: We're so lucky you guys are all so talented and we've got such a great team. It is true "The Today Show" has always been bigger than any one person. I'm excited for the months and years ahead for you, well years maybe. I shouldn't say that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you get a memo we didn't get?

COURIC: I'm excited for the weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time I worked with you in Washington D.C. on the Sunday "Today Show" and I knew it was special then and it's special now and they are very lucky at CBS.

COURIC: Thanks, Al. Thank you so much.



COURIC: And we've got some live greeting from Prince Sultan Air Base here in Saudi Arabia. Your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raymond Johnson from Arkansas.

COURIC: You wanted to say hi to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of my family down in Arkansas and my wife, Antona (ph), I love you baby.

COURIC: That's sweet. Your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Heather from Tucson, Arizona. I'd like to say hi to all of my family in Tucson. I love you guys. Miss you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back. As we were going to break, was it Fred or Howard that was going to say something?

FRANCIS: yes, Larry, you know, to raise the ratings at CBS News, which has been in the dumps for quite some time, they're going to have to do something different. Like Pat said, this is the perfect opportunity to change the evening news cast. You can't do a lot in 22 minutes on the air. That's the problem.

But to take advantage of Katie Couric, you're going to have to front her more. They're going to have to show her more. They're going to have to, I hate to use the word soften but it can't be a hard, hard news cast. That's going to be the objection of the people at CBS, you know, they like the hard news angle, but they have to soften it up.

If they can do that, using Katie Couric, I think they're going to take the audience, not a new audience. I don't think they'll ever build the "Evening News" up to what it was when we were around but they'll take audience from ABC and they'll take audience from NBC.

KING: Jeff Wadlow, you were telling me what your friends think about.

WADLOW: You were just asked asking me if I thought younger people will watch it. I think Katie has tremendous appeal. All of my life, people don't want to hear that their mother is attractive. That's the joke when you're growing up. Hey, your mother is good looking.

All my life I've have people telling me hey, your aunt is quite a looker, times a million. I think she has that appeal. It's an easy joke, but the core of the comment is that people like her. I think its a mistake to talk about the news in terms of hard versus soft.

I think there's an accessibility issue, and I think certainly members of my generation are looking for news outlets that are more accessible. And I think that's what Katie will bring to the table.

KING: Howard, something we haven't mentioned, how is she going to do at "60 minutes?"

KURTZ: Oh, well, that's a natural fit for her, whereas, you know, adjusting to the constraints of the evening news, you know, may involve some creative thinking. The executive producer of the "60 Minutes," Jeff Fager, told me today that, you know, they've wanted to get her for a long time. That she's such a good interviewer, in his words, that she'll fit right in on that show.

She'll do about six pieces a year because she'll have this other full time responsibility. And, you know, I do want to mention, you know, the evening news is not just going to be the Katie show. One of things that Bob Schieffer has done is to feature the correspondents, Lara Logan, Gloria Borger, Byron Pitts, Jim Axelrod, make it more of an ensemble approach.

And I think people also watch these newscasts for the reporting. And so there will be a lot of people waiting to see how she interacts with the staff. But, you know, just a second point that a couple of your other guests have made, Larry, it's about being real on camera and it is about forging a connection with the audience. Katie's clearly has done that in the morning. And the challenge now for her is to make that connection with perhaps a new set of viewers who watch at 6:30.

KING: We'll take a break and be back -- and I'll call on Pat Mitchell and be back in with our remaining minutes right after this.


TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Just relax, let it go through your hand.

COURIC: Careful, careful, I really don't want to be responsible for mutilating you in any way, shape or form.

CRUISE: Let go, release it. OK. Now you let it come up again. OK. That's perfect.

COURIC: Did I get it right?

CRUISE: Yes, yes, yes. It's perfect. Just relax the wrist, exactly.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.

EDWARD R. MURROW, CBS NEWS, 1935-1961: Good evening, the Atomic Energy Commission has just announced...

DOUGLAS EDWARDS, CBS EVENING NEWS, 1948-1962: President Truman held a news conference, as is customary, on Thursdays, and he answered one of the big questions.

WALTER CRONKITE, CBS EVENING NEWS, 1962-1981: Good evening from our Cbs Newsroom in New York on this, the first broadcast of network television's first daily half hour news program.

DAN RATHER, CBS EVENING NEWS, 1981-2005: This is the Cbs Evening News, Dan Rather reporting. Never before in 25 years have Americans in space...

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS EVENING NEWS, 2005-PRESENT: Good evening, I'm Bob Schieffer. Tom DeLay's fall from power is complete. The former house Republican leader is resigning from Congress.


KING: Joining us briefly on the phone is Andy Lack, an old friend, former president of NBC News from 1993-2001, the former president and chief operating officer over at NBC and now chairman of the board of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Andy, what do you make of this story?

ANDY LACK, SONY/BMG MUSIC ENT., CHMN. OF BD., FMR. PRES. NBC, NBC NEWS: Exciting as hell. I got chills listening to that setup. It's a marvelous legacy that Katie is inheriting, and she will do it proud. And she will build the next generation broadcast for the CBS Evening News. I have no doubt.

KING: What was she like as an employee?

LACK: Great. Tough. Smart. You know her.

KING: Very well.

LACK: She's serious, but she doesn't take herself seriously. And that's a golden combination for colleagues to work with. She always was determined and disciplined about the importance of the story in front of her, but never took her role in it so seriously that it inhibited her from really chasing the story the right way.

KING: Do you have any doubts about how she'll do?

LACK: No, I don't honestly because she's so talented, you know? Talent at the end of the day wins. Will there be tough obstacles in her way? Sure, and it's a long war. And she'll, at the end of the day, prevail. I think it's great for CBS. I think it's a gutsy, smart and brave move for her.

She leaves "The Today Show" on top with a wonderful 15-year run. All good things come to an end. I think it's great for "The Today Show" quite frankly if what I read is true and Meredith is going over there. That will be great for the show, and the viewer is going to have a win/win situation, a new solid anchor at CBS and the same over at NBC on "The Today Show."

KING: Yes, she is a great girl. In fact, you know CBS as well as anyone, even though you were at NBC for so many years. You produced West 57th Street when they did a piece on me.

LACK: I did. And was Meredith the anchor on that?

KING: She was the anchor and you were the producer.

LACK: Yes, yes. No, Meredith is like Katie, serious reporter, really smart, does her homework, cares like mad to get the story right, will chase it until she does. And Katie's going to do the same thing. They're going to both put their stamps on the programs that they're now moving to, and that's going to be great for the viewers. It's great, new move for both of them, and I think it's going to be fun to watch.

KING: Hold for one moment, Andy.

LACK: Sure.

KING: We have a statement from Rome Hartman, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News. Watch.


ROME HARTMAN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, CBS EVENING NEWS: She's a terrific reporter. She is a terrific interviewer. She's a great broadcaster. She's really a unique talent I think. What she brings is she's real. You know, people relate to her. They get a sense that when they look on the screen, that's her. That's not somebody playing a role. That's Katie Couric and she is, whether she's talking to a world leader or to another reporter or something like that, she just has a great way about her.


KING: Pat Mitchell, you were going to say?

LACK: Yes, I approve.

MITCHELL: I was going to say let's listen to what Jeff said, speaking to his generation, the generation we have to bring back to all the news programs. It's not about hard or soft. It's about telling the stories that matter and telling them in a way that matter to the people listening. And from Cronkite to Couric, you know, CBS has that tradition and now it moves into a whole new legacy with Katie at the helm.

KING: Fred Francis, thanks so much for joining us. Quickly, what are you doing now, Fred?

FRANCIS: As little as possible, Larry. After 30 years, I'm taking it a little easy.

KING: You're retired?

FRANCIS: Semi-retired.

KING: And Howard Kurtz you get the lead tomorrow on the style section, do you not?

KURTZ: Yes, and I need to then find out if Meredith Vieira is in fact going to take Katie's job at "The Today Show." I think they are this close according to my sources.

KING: Thank you all very much, Andy Lack on the phone, Fred Francis, Jeff Wadlow. She's very luck to have you as a nephew, lucky at all to have you in the family.

WADLOW: Well, we feel the same way. She's been amazing, and I could not ask for a better aunt. And I think it's really exciting for her and for everyone.

KING: Pat Mitchell, Howard Kurtz and Rome Hartman, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News and of course earlier Walter Cronkite.

Right now, the new dynamic duo sitting in for "ANDERSON COOPER 360," John Roberts and Heidi Collins in New York, guys.


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