On this day in 2005, Katie Couric makes headlines–and TV history–with her highly publicized debut as the first female solo anchor of a weekday network evening news broadcast, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Couric, who served as co-anchor of The Today Show from 1991 to 2006, replaced Dan Rather, who anchored CBS Evening News from 1981 until his retirement on March 9, 2005, in the aftermath of a controversial story about the military record of President George W. Bush. (Bob Schieffer served as interim anchor between Rather’s departure and Couric’s debut.) Barbara Walters was the first woman to co-anchor the network evening news, when she was paired up with Harry Reasoner on the ABC Evening News from 1976 to 1978.
Couric was born on January 7, 1957, in Arlington, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1979. That same year, she began her career in journalism as a desk assistant at ABC News in Washington, D.C. During the 1980s, she was a TV reporter in Miami and Washington, eventually becoming a Pentagon correspondent for NBC. On April 5, 1991, Couric became the permanent co-host, alongside Bryant Gumbel, of The Today Show, where she was known for her perky on-air personality as well as her hard-hitting interview style with politicians and other newsmakers. On April 5, 2006, after months of speculation in the media, Couric announced she would leave Today. That same day, CBS officially confirmed that Couric would become the anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News. Her salary of $15 million per year–which made her TV’s highest-paid news anchor–reportedly remained the same. Couric said farewell to Today Show viewers on May 31, 2006. Meredith Vieira, a former co-host of Walters’ daytime chat fest The View, replaced Couric on Today starting in September 2006.
Couric’s heavily hyped September 5, 2005, debut on the CBS Evening News attracted large numbers of viewers, but the show’s ratings later dropped below those of competitors NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson. Some critics charged that Couric didn’t have the hard-news experience and gravitas of her CBS predecessors Rather and Walter Cronkite.