Fager: 'Evening News' wasn't a good fit for her

Katie Couric, who spent five years anchoring “The CBS Evening News,” was rarely, if ever, professionally satisfied during her tenure at the Eye.

So said CBS News chairman Jeff Fager on Wednesday during the Eye’s portion of the Television Critics Assn. confab in Beverly Hills. Fager said Couric “was frustrated” doing the news every night and that she “realized she needed to move and spread her wings. It was not the right vehicle for her.”

Since her final broadcast in May, ratings for the nightly newscast have improved. Scott Pelley, a longtime correspondent for “60 Minutes,” has taken over as anchor and managing editor.

Fager, Pelley and CBS News president David Rhodes argued at the panel that despite budget cuts and the elimination of many worldwide bureaus — circumstances evident across all broadcast news divisions — the Eye has enough manpower to get the job done. “I have experienced no lack of resources, and we have had no shortage of people,” Pelley said. “Shortages or resources is not something I look at every morning.”

Added Rhodes: “You hear how network news organizations have cut back, and I don’t see that we don’t have what we need to do a capable job every night. You don’t necessarily need physical offices in as many places to put on a credible broadcast. With new technologies, I think it’s a mistake to count heads or number of bureaus.”

After a handful of news orgs were suspected of paying for photos, video and interviews in the recent Casey Anthony case, Fager said CBS would not go down that road to get something exclusive and a possible ratings boost. “It goes against what we believe in. We won’t do it,” he said. “If others want to do it, fine. There are stories out there to tell and we don’t need to get in that line of work.”

Now that ratings for the “CBS Evening News” are moving in the right direction, Fager said he’s now focusing much of his attention on “The Early Show,” CBS’ perennial laggard in the ayem network news race. “It’s a big challenge for us,” Fager said. “We need to focus on it.”

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