“I sort of slapped him around,” Couric admits. “I got mad at him and said, ‘You can’t do this to me. You have to tell me when you’re going to use a word like that.’ I was aggravated, there’s no question about that.” But she says she has a good relationship with Cipriano. “We did ban the word sputum from all future broadcasts. It became kind of a joke.”
Couric is looking to the 2008 election cycle as an opportunity to build her reputation as the network’s authoritative voice. She’ll be moderating a presidential debate in December in Los Angeles, and CBS has hired Washington correspondent Jeff Greenfield from CNN as a familiar face who can serve in a veteran Tim Russert–type role when she’s analyzing the race. (In addition, she’ll be broadcasting alongside Schieffer, who will remain the host of Face the Nation through 2008, which should make for interesting viewing.) “She’ll get to prove her mettle,” says Kaplan. “That’s where she’ll prove all the things she can do, and, boy, do I like our chances.”
But Couric is realistic enough to imagine that it might not work out in the end. “If it turns out it wasn’t a perfect fit,” she says, “then, you know, I’ll do something else that’s really exciting and fulfilling for me.”
She brightens when discussing her future work for 60 Minutes. While she refutes widespread rumors that she’s going to jump to 60 Minutes, Couric does plan to ramp up her production there, with the intention of doing eight-to-ten segments in the coming season. This summer, for instance, she’s interviewing former CIA operative Valerie Plame for an exclusive in the fall, tied to Plame’s tell-all published by Simon & Schuster. It’s obvious that 60 Minutes best reflects what Couric would like to do—exclusive interviews with newsmakers and celebrities—much more so than does the current version of the CBS Evening News.
Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the show, says he can easily imagine Couric working at 60 Minutes full time. “I could see that, yes,” he says. “I’m sure she’d probably like to do that some nights.” When I bring up Fager’s comment to Couric, she agrees, “Yes, and have a little more of a life.”
It makes you wonder if she doesn’t have days when she wakes up and wishes she hadn’t jumped to CBS News. “I mean, of course. I’m human. I’m not going around, ‘Dee-da dee-da dee,’” she says. “I have days when I’m like, ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’”
“But for some weird reason, they don’t happen that often.”
She summons a smile. Even now, her optimism is irrepressible.