Rebranding Katie: CBS's Secret Strategies Revealed!

Media Guy Listens in on Plans to Transform a Morning Talk-Show Host Into a Serious Newscaster

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Deep within the bowels of CBS News, a special "Katie Couric G-Force Committee" convenes.

CBS News Executive: OK, great, everyone's here. I'm going to make this quick: I'm tasking the five people in this room with what we're calling the G-Force initiative. This is obviously top secret, and if I end up reading about any of this on TVNewser or Gawker, there is going to be hell to pay. Now, as you know, a lot of the chatter about Katie joining us has to do with whether or not she has the chops, the gravitas, to do the evening news. Our job is to prove the skeptics wrong. Tom?
Katie Couric
Katie Couric

Lackey No. 1 (aka Tom): The PowerPoint?

Exec: Yep. So I asked Tom to put together a few slides ... OK, yeah, so this is a People cover from 1993 ...

Lackey No. 2 (aka Jack): Oh my god!

Exec: Do you love that headline or what? "Today's sassy Katie Couric. She's messy, she's a pouter, she's star-struck and she likes giving Bryant a hard time. No wonder America loves her!" Now if anyone thinks we can't rebrand Katie, all they need to do is look at this cover and remember that Power Katie used to be Sassy Katie, Perky Katie. I mean, look at her! Suburban-mom bob, bright red lipstick on loan from Ronald McDonald. All a distant memory now. We've done this before, people.

Lackey No. 3 (aka Ellen): We have the technology. We can rebuild her. Again.

Exec: I've asked Ellen to spearhead the Palette Subcommittee. Ellen?

L3: I'm still working on the draft memo, but I've been consulting with Wardrobe to create a whole color-coded Katie style guide that's specifically keyed to various levels of calamity. Like, on really tragic news days -- T1 days -- we're going to be working a lot of grays and charcoals into Katie's suits, and going really minimal on the jewelry --

L2: I think it should be, like, no jewelry.

L1: I think a little jewelry -- maybe a simple gold chain -- is OK for, say, a kid-trapped-in-a-well day ...

Exec: Well, let's not go too minimal, because Les Moonves is still big on pendants that draw the eye, a little sparkle-and-shine to hint at cleavage -- but we can talk about that later, Ellen. Let's keep this moving. Tom, the next slide? Right, yeah, Katie Couric and Elmo. Oy. And this was from March of this year, people! Which is why Jack is working on Katie photo-ops forward-going --

L2: Muppets out, statesmen in. We're going flood the channel, get the shots out to every blog, every paper. Last week Katie was photographed dancing with Antonio Banderas. Banderas is out, Zapatero's in. Same event in March as that Elmo shot, Katie posed with Chaka Khan. From here on, Chaka's out, Condi's in --

Exec: You know, speaking of Condoleeza Rice, Jason is heading up the Hair Subcomittee --

Lackey No. 4 (aka Jason): Yeah, we're banning that Condi flip-the way Katie's hair tends to cutely curl up at the bottom.

Exec: We don't ever wanna see the "That Girl" 'do, especially on T1 days. Speaking of which ... Deidre?

Lackey No. 5 (aka Deidre): Right, well, though it's kind of macabre to talk about this, tragedy is going to help us remake Katie, rebrand Katie, and we've got to plan for it.

L2: Hell, it worked for Anderson Cooper.

Exec: Yeah, remember "The Mole"? Hurricane Katrina made everyone forget that Anderson used to be a game-show host, for chrissakes.

L5: Exactly. So right now we're war-gaming tragedy scenarios -- everything from natural disasters to terrorist strikes -- and preparing theoretical scripts for Katie that touch on the big themes: courage, sacrifice, nobility, national resolve, that sort of thing.

Exec: And we're bringing in Clooney on the down-low to give Katie some pointers on Edward R. Murrow-isms. The tilted head, the intense eye contact and so on. Oh, and we're restoring the five-second delay we had for Dan Rather in the end, in case he said anything too cracked-out folksy --

L2: But for Katie it's in case she giggles, or if her smile gets too gummy.

Exec: Although on T4 days, we're OK with giggles and smiles. And leg. In fact, Les is probably going to insist on all three. He wants his $15 million's worth. Anyway, Tom, next slide ...

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