Stephen Battaglio

Couric's News Gets a Makeover
CBS attempts to fix record-low ratings

Katie Couric, CBS Evening News

When Katie Couric first took over the CBS Evening News, she said she didn't want to do your grandmother's newscast. But she's found out the hard way that Grandma liked her evening news the way it was. The program's ratings have fallen to a 20-year low, languishing behind ABC's World News with Charles Gibson and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. CBS News recently installed veteran producer Rick Kaplan, who has upped the number of stories covered and dropped the informal touches that Couric brought to it.

"A lot of things didn't work," says Kaplan. "It didn't suit what the viewers were looking for, and we got off it and tried something else. We gave everyone a lesson in some things not to do."

The anchor agrees it's the way to go for now.

"Rick is trying to reassure people that we are here every night coverin read more

Pilot Buzz
A rundown of the top new contenders for the fall

Jimmy Smits

The networks are just days away from unveiling their fall lineups. Here's the early word on what new shows to expect.

ABC will try hard to diversify its program lineup with a few dramas that don't fall into the soap category. That's why Marlowe, based on the famous Raymond Chandler detective character, and Pushing Daisies, a quirky supernatural drama about a man whose touch brings people back to life ("with procedural elements" as the pilot's log line says), are on the list of possible pickups. A sitcom based on the Geico cavemen and Sam I Am, starring Christina Applegate, are contenders on the comedy side. And oh, yes — the network also has a new series that will be spun out of a little show called Grey's Anatomy.

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Hit the Road, Matt Today's Matt Lauer embarks on his eighth "Where in the World...?" tour

Matt Lauer, Today

Every few sweeps periods, Today coanchor Matt Lauer grabs his passport and heads off on what has become a surefire stunt for NBC's morning program: "Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?" Each morning Today viewers will wake up to find Lauer in such locales as the Great Wall of China, Easter Island or the slopes of the Swiss Alps. On April 30 he's back on the road again. Even though it's his eighth such trip (logging 182,616 miles), Today fans never get tired of it. But what about the jet-lagged Lauer? The Biz asked him before he took off. Every time you do "Where in the World...?" you always sound like you don't want to do it again.
Matt Lauer:
That's my shtick. That's what gets people like you to continue to write about it. Why do you keep going back out?
I had lunch not long ago read more

Sunday Drivers Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace on the long, long road to the White House

Chris Wallace, Fox News Sunday

Before there was Fox News Channel, there was Fox News Sunday. The Beltway-based Sunday discussion program celebrates its 11th anniversary on Fox stations this month. While it's still just knee-high to NBC's Meet the Press (60 years) and CBS' Face the Nation (52 years), it is part of the opinion-leading sphere of Sunday-morning programs — a tradition that survives in the age of 24-hour cable news and the Internet. Despite those other formats, Sunday-morning shows will provide defining moments for the candidates in the 2008 presidential campaign. The Biz talked with Fox News Sunday moderator Chris Wallace about his news organization's role in the long road to the White House. Why do you think the Democratic candidates for president have pulled out of the debates cosponsored by Fox News?
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Imus Update
NBC News explains why the talk-show host was fired

Don Imus

Don Imus' racist comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team led to a public outcry, but it was the voices of his fellow employees at NBC News that got his show yanked from TV. (CBS announced late Thursday that it has dumped Imus' radio program as well, effective immediately. CBS Radio carried the program on 61 stations across the U.S.)

Imus faced a cascade of criticism for calling the Rutgers team members "nappy-headed ho's" on his Imus in the Morning radio program, which had been simulcast on MSNBC. He made a public apology, and it appeared that the outrageously irreverent host would get off with a two-week suspension.

That all changed after a meeting late on the afternoon of April 10, which NBC News president Steve Capus held with about 30 of his staffers, including Today show weatherman Al Roker, the most high-profile African-American on-air personality in the new read more

Imus in the Morning After Racist remarks may result in worse than suspension

Don Imus

Are MSNBC and CBS Radio being too easy on Don Imus for his racist remarks about the Rutgers University women's basketball team?

Other TV personalities and radio shock jocks have been yanked for making stupid, insensitive comments on the air that were not as incendiary as what Imus said — and the Imus in the Morning host is getting only a two-week suspension. NBC News executives say they believe that he truly regrets his comments and decided not to can him. "He gets why this is so wrong," one executive told the Biz.

But even though he's kept his job for now, Imus' career is doomed. The problem is that for too long, he's tried to have it both ways. In the 1970s and '80s he was inappropriate, outrageous and hilarious. Even if you considered yourself an enlightened p read more

A Royal Audience
Larry King celebrates 50 years in the business

Larry King

This month CNN's titan of talk Larry King celebrates his 50th year in broadcasting. (For those of you who never knew a world without cable, King was doing local and network radio shows when CNN just was one of many ideas flying around in Ted Turner's brain.) King will be reflecting on his career with a week of special shows starting April 16 and a big bash at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York (suspenders optional, we've been told). After quizzing some 40,000 guests over the decades, we thought it was a good time for King to answer a few questions from the Biz. Name a historical figure you wish you could book on your show.
Larry King:
Jesus Christ. What would you ask him?
"Do you believe you were born of a virgin birth?" read more

Reality Check
NBC's Richard Engel describes his grim War Zone Diary

Richard Engel

In early 2003, when most news organizations pulled their people out of Iraq before the war began, American freelance journalist Richard Engel stayed. He eventually signed on with NBC News and has been reporting on the violence and occasional progress there ever since. His documentary, War Zone Diary, which premieres March 21 at 10 pm/ET on MSNBC, provides a jarring and grim inside look at life on the ground in Baghdad. It also includes portions of a highly personal video diary that Engel kept during his four years there. The Biz talked with Engel during his recent U.S. visit to find out how he's holding up. When you're in Baghdad, I imagine you have the sense that it's the most important place in the world right now. Then you get here, and, to be kind, the public has a certain level of avoidance about the subject.
Richard Engel:
That was surprising to me. On this trip read more

A New View for Star Jones Reynolds The former daytime diva lets loose on her new Court TV series and

Star Jones Reynolds

Star Jones Reynolds is returning to her roots. Sixteen years after first transforming herself from an assistant district attorney into a legal analyst on Court TV, she's now coming back to the cable channel that will have a new name next year. Reynolds will host her own live daily talk show starting later this year. She'll also serve as executive editor and help shape the channel's daytime programming. The Biz recently talked to Reynolds about her new job, her new look and whether she's heard from her old pals at The View. What's your vision for the new show?
Reynolds: Sort of a mixture of news and information as it relates to the law, pop culture and entertainment. It's sort of the dream job for me to be able to pull all of my expertise from being a prosecutor into the same pot with some of t read more

Brian Williams' New Boss Gets Tough NBC Nightly News exec producer sizes up the competition

Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News

There was a change at the top at NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams last week when Alex Wallace replaced John Reiss as executive producer. Wallace, a vice president at NBC News and a former Weekend Today producer, comes in just as Nightly News is in its toughest ratings position since Williams took over for Tom Brokaw at the end of 2004. In this past February-sweeps period, ABC World News with Charles Gibson scored its first across-the-board ratings win (in total viewers and in the ad-friendly demo of news watchers aged 25 to 54) since 1996. The Biz talked to Wallace about the challenges she's facing and the decision to send Williams to Iraq, making him the first evening-news anchor to travel into the war zone since ABC read more

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