According to the latest gossipy report, the behind-the-scenes at Katie Couric's new daytime show is a tumultuous mess as her producers fight to push the show towards softball celebrity coverage and the host wanting to steer towards hard news. Sound familiar? But, according to a source close to the show, things aren't nearly as bad as they seem.
It's no secret that Katie, a syndicated chat show that's distributed by Disney mostly to local ABC affiliates, had a rough go in its first season. It suffered from a classic case of "too many cooks" syndrome at the very beginning. Among the many executive producers were Couric's former Today producer Jeff Zucker, but Zucker left Katie to run CNN at the end of 2012. Others soon followed: executive producer Michael Bass followed him a few months later. Kathy Samuels, who was one of the original executive producers running the day-to-day operations with Bass, left at the beginning of June along with another co-executive producer, Ethan Samuels. So that's a lot of turnover for a talk show to go through during its first season. To make matters worse, Michael Morrison, the guy who replaced Zucker, couldn't keep the show under control as Brian Stelter of The New York Times reported back in April:
The executive who replaced Mr. Zucker just three months ago, Michael Morrison, has been marginalized, according to several staff members there, so much so that rumors are running rampant that he is about to be replaced.
On June 8, The New York Post reported there was a "very stressful" work environment, "staffing weirdness" with "no one making decisions." But that's why Rachel Miskowiec, a former producer on The Tyra Banks Show, was brought in to be the show's saving grace. "For the first time since Jeff left, there’s finally someone in charge who can handle the show," a source told the Post. But the reports of bad blood behind the scenes didn't stop.
On Tuesday the New York Daily News reported Couric is upset with Miskowiec for trying to "dumb down" the show with more celebrity coverage, instead of the hard news coverage Couric has proven herself capable of doing. "If there is one thing Katie hates more than being called 'perky,' it's being called 'tabloid,'" a source told the Daily News. "She thinks of herself as a serious journalist, covering stories that make a difference. She’s fighting this." The battle between Couric and Miskowiec is being made out to sound a whole lot like the tiff between NBC and former Today Show host Ann Curry.
But a source close to Katie told The Atlantic Wire that she isn't unhappy with Miskowiec at all. "Since joining a few weeks ago, Rachel's been exactly what the show needs to develop," the source said. "The idea that Rachel is a problem is ridiculous."
Any talk show, especially a ratings-sensitive daytime syndicated show, is going to have to balance the light and fun side of news with more serious stuff. "The notion of the show needing to work on that balance is true," our source said, "but there's always going to be that need."
So Katie marches forward with steadily rising ratings despite the negative buzz, a new producer figuring things out, and press coverage that's desperately trying to turn this popular news lady into a casualty of evil execs looking for the softer side of silly news, even though Couric routinely does both. The thirst for another wounded news doe, like Curry, won't be satiated here.