Katie Couric is about to make her grand debut and history all at the same time. It will be one of the great tightrope acts in ages.
Katie is a star. She got there because of the magic news blend -- smarts, personality and being comfortable in her own skin. But Katie's star quality makes her new job a bit problematic. She has become a bigger celebrity than most of the celebs she interviews. On "Today," Katie's star qualities were never a problem. It was a morning show which went in and out of real news, and Katie navigated the waters with ease. Unless she was interviewing a Brad Pitt type, the two-shot was way more important than the close-up of the star -- how is Katie reacting, is she crossing her legs, will she go for the one-liner? It all worked.
Now Katie is in different territory. It seems CBS is somewhat worried, if not embarrassed, by the perception of Katie as a celebrity. Hence the new promos in which Katie says CBS has the best reporters and that's what makes a newscast. Interesting, because they've had the same reporters for a while, but clearly CBS doesn't think the reporters will spike the ratings, and that's why they're paying Couric a queen's ransom. So it seems CBS wants Katie to blend but, then again, not really.
Katie is the reason people will tune in on September 5. CBS is banking on getting repeat viewers on September 6. It's going to be a tough road to hoe. The CBS News sweet spot -- at least the people drawn to the broadcast in the past -- has been older males, especially from the South. That's hardly the demo Katie brings to CBS. Will she lose the viewers who aren't much into celebrity journalists? Will she attract viewers who are into watching a star do her thing?
Here's my prediction; Katie will do fine until that next big event that requires an anchor to sit without a bathroom break for hours, comforting and informing America. That's where Katie shines, matched by none. And that's the kind of event that cements loyalty and viewing habits. In short, over the long haul, my money's on Katie.