Katie Couric's debut on the CBS Evening News this week comes after months of furious media coverage and speculation about how she will change the face of evening news and the network itself.
And to be fair, the attention is warranted. Her ascension to the CBS News throne has all the makings of a good story: She is the first woman to be specifically hired as the solo anchor of a network evening news broadcast (ABC's Elizabeth Vargas was the lone anchor of World News Tonight by default after co-anchor Bob Woodruff suffered injuries while on assignment in Iraq), and many are waiting to see if she successfully makes the transition from morning-show sweetheart to hard-nosed journalist.
CBS has certainly taken the steps to make sure that we follow in that transition. The network embarked on a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, complete with a "listening" tour that targeted both journalists and viewers. And who can blame it? With Couric's hefty salary and a perpetual third-place standing in the ratings game, CBS has a lot at stake.
But while Couric is bound to draw some curious new viewers initially, her arrival should not be considered a cure-all for the network's news operations. The promotion and hype for her broadcast will mean nothing if the appropriate content isn't there. To its credit, CBS has already taken steps to make the newscast relevant to different audiences. In addition to adopting the blogging strategies of its NBC Nightly News competitor, it recently announced that, beginning with Couric's first broadcast, the Evening News will be simulcast over the Web, a first for network news and a logical step in an era where not everyone is home in time to view the program on TV.
Couric could indeed signal a turning point for a network that has a long and almost iconic history. But if CBS News is to once again be a leader, then innovation, not Couric, should be the reason for that success.