When she debuted as anchor of the CBS Evening News on September 5, 2006, Katie Couric ushered in a new era in television. The first female permanent solo anchor of a broadcast network evening news show, Couric cracked the glass ceiling, proving herself equal to her male predecessors with hard-hitting interviews, including an infamous chat with then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. But controversy dogged her tenure at CBS, and she stepped down just 4 months shy of her 5th anniversary.
© Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Her September 5, 2006 debut on the CBS Evening News was much anticipated and highly rated; but a year later ratings were down for Katie Couric and critics were finding her flat and automaton-like in the anchor role. Adding fuel to the fire, her predecessor -- former CBS anchor Dan Rather -- criticized CBS's decision to bring her onto the show as an attempt to "dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience." In an off-camera moment caught on YouTube, Couric skewers Rather and reveals she's still human after all.
© David Livingston/Getty Images
Eighteen months after hiring her, CBS CEO Les Moonves continued to sing the praises of Katie Couric despite a ratings decline which showed her losing male viewers 55 and older. Although the CBS Evening News was in third place behind NBC and CBS, the salary of each of the other two male anchors was less than half of Couric's $15 million per year.
Although three years remained on Katie Couric's contract with the CBS Evening News
-- which wasn't up until 2011 -- rumors began flying in April 2008 that she might end her run early. Among the contributing factors fueling those rumors: continuing low ratings, bad blood over her move to CBS, and her high price tag as CBS's top news anchor.
© Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
Naysayers were put in their place when Couric earned praise for her work from one of the most-respected groups in the country. The Radio-Television News Directors Association awarded The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric
the 2008 International Edward R. Murrow Award for best newscast. The annual award -- which honors excellence in electronic journalism -- was a much-needed boost for a program which frequently came in third out of the three nightly network news shows.
© Spencer Platt/Getty Images
It has since become the stuff of pop culture parody, but when Katie Couric interviewed Sarah Palin within a month of the Alaska governor's selection as the vice presidential candidate on the 2008 Republican presidential ticket, the world still was enamored of Palin. Couric's relentless yet simple questions and Palin's "rambling, vague and ill-informed" answers (in the words of UK newspaper The Telegraph
) took its toll, heightening Couric's position as a savvy interviewer and reducing Palin to what she was -- a candidate in over her head.
© Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Was the timing purely coincidental? Couric's April 2011 announcement that she'd decided to leave the anchor desk at CBS came just a month in advance of the final show of Oprah's wildly popular syndicated daytime talk show. With the two happening so close to each other, observers couldn't help but speculate -- will Katie jump to daytime talk and become the next Oprah?
Unlike other sendoffs in 2011 -- namely Oprah's and Meredith Viera's goodbyes from their respective final shows -- Couric's departure from the CBS Evening News
was low-key and limited to a five-minute recap of her five years as anchor. She did however note the historic significance of her run, saying, "I have taken the privilege of being the first solo woman anchor seriously."
Katie Couric knows how to deliver a kidney punch. Just hours before her replacement Scott Pelley assumed the anchor desk at CBS for his first nightly newscast, Couric broke the news of her new syndicated daytime talk show scheduled to debut September 2012. For Katie fans who can't wait that long, she also shared the good news that she'd be working as a contributor for ABC News starting in the summer of 2011.