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Moonves Again Backs Couric After Conventions

CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves said he is “proud” of the performance of Katie Couric at the conventions and reiterated his inclination to give the third-place newscast as much time as it takes to build its ratings.

“I’m a patient man,” he told B&C this week. “And no one has a gun to their head."

CBS News was a consistent third behind NBC and ABC during coverage of the political conventions, although some nights it was very close to overtaking ABC.

“We all wish the ratings were better,” Moonves acknowledged. “I think the conventions accentuated what a phenomenal talent she is. She is great on her feet. She is a great interviewer. She’s great at passing the ball around. I think she did an extraordinary job, and I was extremely proud of her and our entire CBS News team during the conventions. I think we showed how good we were. I really do. Ratings notwithstanding, we’re doing a terrific job."

Couric received many positive reviews for her work at the conventions, both on CBS as well as on the Web. Lighter moments had her proving that she can do a pretty good headstand (as she did in the blogger tent at the Democratic National Convention), while in more serious instances, she reminded that she can also ask the right follow-up question (as when she pressed a flummoxed Cindy McCain to explain her husband’s position on Roe vs. Wade).

That comes as the press continues to scrutinize Couric’s two-year tenure as anchor of the CBS Evening News. The most recent media blitz came last spring, when word leaked out that she was ready to bolt Evening News after the election in November.

Since then, Couric and Sean McManus, president of CBS News, stressed her commitment to the broadcast. And, CBS News sources said, the mood at Evening News has improved markedly.

“There were a lot of speculative [media reports] that got, quite frankly, spun out of control,” Couric said during a July press conference with members of the Television Critics Association. “But I am very committed to the people here and very committed to the product.”