Couric staying put at NBC, denies CBS anchor talk

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Katie Couric on Thursday doused persistent rumors that she plans to jump NBC's Today to anchor the CBS Evening News--or go anywhere else, for that matter. At least for the time being.

Couric and the rest of the Today crew conducted a conference call with reporters to celebrate the morning show's 10 years at the top. But as rumors persist that CBS has been doing some heavy-duty wooing to bring Couric to the Tiffany Network, Couric stepped in quickly during the call to make sure the call would be more about Today than her future.

"There've been a lot of things out there; I don't know where people are getting them, but I wanted to let you all know that so we didn't have to play games with this call, because there's really nothing to announce and nothing to report," Couric said.

She declined to address reports that, at CBS, she would become the anchor as well as get a starring role on 60 Minutes. Her current contract ends in May, and it's likely that whichever she decides upon will have to pay upward of $15 million-$20 million a year for five to seven years.

"I know there's a great deal of speculation, and while I appreciate the interest, kind of, my contract ends in May and I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do," Couric said. "I'm fortunate to have a couple of opportunities to think long and hard about."

Despite a sometimes tumultuous time at the top, Today has been there--with most of the current on-air crew--most of that decade. But it has been a revolving door of executive producers who have paid the price for a strong challenge by ABC's Good Morning America as well as other on- and off-air doings. Good Morning America, with cohosts Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson, had strong months earlier this year but has been unable to pass Today.

Couric and her cohost, Matt Lauer, credited executive producer Jim Bell with providing the hosts some time to maintain chemistry as well as doing more hard news.

"I think the content has gotten better. I think for a while there we were emulating the competition," Couric said. She said that she felt that, for a while, Today was doing Laci Peterson and Michael Jackson stories "because, quite frankly, it was the easiest thing to do."

Al Roker agreed: "For a while, I think we were reacting more to what people were doing, and we forgot that we lead and others follow us. We have gone back, under Jim, and reasserted our leadership, and I think you'll find other people are following us."

Lauer said that when Bell arrived in April, he took the time to learn the show and the staff. In looking at tapes, Lauer said, he discovered something that he changed quickly.

"It had become a little too scheduled, and he took a step to allow us to breathe," Lauer said.

Couric and Lauer didn't seem as thrilled about another one of their duties: hosting NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Neither Lauer nor Couric had been told that one of the floats had been involved in an accident that injured spectators; NBC aired file footage of the float.

While Lauer said that a lot more was made of it than he felt should have been, Couric said that the situation had been embarrassing.

"I think it would have been helpful for us to be more informed. We weren't aware that the video they were using was a year old until after the broadcast," Couric said.

She added: "We might have second thoughts about doing it again. It puts us into an awkward situation."

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