As expected, all eyes were on Katie Couric Tuesday night as her debut as anchor of The CBS Evening Newsregistered a 9.1 rating and a 17 share, according to Nielsen Research. It was the highest rating the program had recorded since 1998. By contrast, ABC's World News with Charles Gibson placed second with a 5.7/10 and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams placed third with a 5.3/10. Even CBS executives were quick to acknowledge that the ratings were affected by the curiosity factor. In an interview with Broadcasting and Cable, CBS News President Sean McManus said, "What's more important is what the audience will be six months and a year from now."


Couric's big "get" for her first newscast was Suri Cruise, or at any rate the first photograph of the 5-month-old daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, taken by celebrity photographer Annie Leibowitz for the cover of the upcoming edition of Vanity Fairmagazine. The photograph was displayed about two-thirds of the way through the program. TV critics gave the program mixed reviews, with several observing that it was hardly a news program at all. Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post remarked, "The number of full-fledged stories about something that happened yesterday amounted to -- let me count here -- one..." Nevertheless, Kurtz remarked, "I'm sure some will say there wasn't enough news in the "Evening News." And they will have a point. But that's the tradeoff if you're going to do longer, more textured pieces and new features on a half-hour broadcast." MSNBC commentator Michael Ventre remarked, "Note to Katie: It's called theCBS Evening NEWSfor a reason." "They should have devoted at least 15 minutes to much harder news," Fordham University media professor Paul Levinson told Reuters. Former ABC newsman Bob Zelnick, currently a journalism professor at Boston University, told the Association Press, "I felt the show, taken as a whole, had too much softness to it." "The real test, of course, lies ahead," wrote USA TodayTV critic Robert Bianco. "We'll have to see how well she wears over time, and how well she handles her first crisis. When news breaks, will viewers want to hear it from Couric?"


Although CBS had trumpeted that the program would be carried simultaneously on television and the Internet, anyone attempting to access it live on the West Coast received a message saying, "Please come back later when The CBS Evening Newsairs on your local CBS station." But some Internet bloggers reported that they had problems accessing the program even on the East Coast. One person wrote that she had tried to watch on four different set-ups but "I never got any of them to work." Another said that he wasn't even able to watch the "on demand" version; only the commercials played. He concluded, "After all that hype about multicasting, you'd think CBS would have paid more attention to insuring that interested viewers could take advantage of this innovation." On the program itself, Couric encouraged viewers to consult the CBS website to learn more about the features presented on the program.


ABC's upcoming miniseries The Path to 9/11, which airs next Sunday and Monday nights, is being criticized as biased and inaccurate from all sides, the New York Timesreported today (Wednesday). Among the critics, the newspaper observed, is former counterterrorism czar Richard A. Clarke, who says that one of the scenes showing Osama bin Laden being allowed to escape the capture of American military officers and North Alliance forces prior to 9/11 "didn't happen. ... It's utterly invented." Clarke is currently a paid consultant to ABC News. ABC issued a statement observing that the miniseries was "a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources." And former Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, a member of the 9/11 commission, defended the drama, calling the controversial scene a "composite." However, Richard Ben-Veniste, another member of the 9/11 commission, said that he and several other commission members saw the film last week and were now "trying to think how [the producers] could have misinterpreted the 9/11 commission's finding the way that they had." Meanwhile, the Columbia Journalism Reviewreported on its website Tuesday that it appears that CBS will "cave in to puritan activists" and remove offending four-letter words in a documentary depicting the 9/11 events. Two earlier versions of the same documentary had allowed the language to be included.