Couric deflects criticisms

Ed Klein book profiles news anchor

“IT’S ALL about hair, isn’t it?” Katie Couric asked when she was on the “Today” show and I wrote about her new haircut. Instead of complaining about how trivializing this was Katie just tossed it off. I took her point. Katie has had a lot of occasion lately to toss off criticism. Couric was with me recently at a tribute to Oprah Winfrey. When I said I didn’t feel the “CBS Evening News” played to her natural strengths, she nodded, seeming to agree. Then we decided that the next time we met, we’d just discuss her “love life.” Katie laughed at this. Now comes Ed Klein who has a book bowing in August — “Katie: The Real Story.” It uses a charming cover photo. Katie looks dewy, fresh and very young at a moment when she is seeking more gravitas. (Can it be true that, as Charlie Gibson seems to prove at ABC’s “World News,” the news audience likes getting 22 minutes from older gray-haired men?) I’ve always liked Klein, but haven’t particularly approved of his books. I found his works on Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Hillary Clinton disturbing. So when he gave me a preview of some things he’ll report about Katie next month, I decided to ask her for comments. She wouldn’t agree to be interviewed by Ed Klein but maybe she’ll talk to me. Does she? Not exactly. … Klein has offered what he calls “Newsbreaks.” (1) “Katie hired Matthew Hiltzik as her personal publicist back in the fall of 2005 while she was still under contract to NBC on the ‘Today’ show and was secretly negotiating with CBS chief Leslie Moonves to become the first solo woman network anchor. She had made up her mind to jump ship a year before she actually did.” Katie’s team says she hired the veteran PR guy, Hiltzik, in December 2006. (I don’t really see anything sinister about her hiring Hiltzik or when she did it.) (2) Klein says Hiltzik created a 15-page briefing book that laid out Katie’s qualifications to be a news anchor. Hmm, the New York Observer told us about that on April 5, 2006. So if this is hot stuff, I’m surprised. (3) “Katie was personally involved in every aspect of the CBS Evening News makeover, from choosing the show’s theme music to OK’ing segments of the broadcast, including the one called ‘Free Speech.'” (This was later junked.) Well, all TV news managing editors, which Katie is, are deeply involved in ideas for themselves and their shows. Katie’s team says this “revelation” is nothing new and that James Horner had worked on what he calls “the biggest challenge of his career,” writing a 10-second clip of music that would introduce Katie each night.

KLEIN SAYS Leslie Moonves is mad at Katie for remarks about him in a New York magazine piece. Hiltzik just yawns at this. Klein’s last “Newsbreak” has Katie “talking wistfully about doing more pieces on ’60 Minutes’ — or even moving to that show permanently if things don’t work out for her. … But the majority of people at ’60 Minutes,’ including the correspondents, dislike her intensely. They think she’s a lightweight.” Well, that probably hurts, but Katie has to ignore it. She has a firm contract. New York magazine already said Katie plans to ramp up her production at “60 Minutes,” with the intention of doing eight to 10 segments. With a secure multi-million dollar contract, Katie will keep on keeping on, saying, in effect that one can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. And relentless attacks on her are not going to deter her; not even a book by Ed Klein, once the respected editor of the New York Times Magazine.

CLIVE DAVIS will be honored at noon today as the United Jewish Appeal-Federation’s “Music Visionary of the Year” at the Pierre. Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson sings, as a record million dollars is raised. Z-100 morning personality Elvis Duran is to emcee. Every industry insider from Doug Morris to Lyor Cohen to Rolf Schmidt-Holtz and L.A. Reid will be in the audience. …

CHRISTOPHER MELONI is TV’s hot cop; “Law & Order: SVU” detective Elliott Stabler, a character with anger issues. So, who does he have to beat up to get an Emmy nomination?! Meloni’s done the best work of his career this season, but the voters just won’t give it up for him. Chris’ wonderful co-star Mariska Hargitay is again nominated (she won last year) but Meloni and Hargitay are a real team; their performances are so in synch it seems impossible and unfair to acknowledge one and not the other.

(Email Liz Smith at

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