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Katie Couric ends historic CBS run quietly

Katie Couric attends the 46th Annual 2011 National

Katie Couric attends the 46th Annual 2011 National Magazine Awards. (May 9, 2011) Credit: AP

In like a lion, out like a lamb, Katie Couric Thursday night calmly, almost serenely, wrapped a historic run as first solo female anchor of a major network nightly newscast.

The finale was sharply different from the premiere back in 2006, when CBS promised huge changes, and initially delivered them. "Hi everyone," she said brightly and optimistically back on Sept. 5, 2006. "Good evening everyone," she began Thursday night. Her final show included an interview with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- "We are seeing slow but steady progress" on regime change in Libya, Clinton said.

It ended with a five-minute look at her five years, including George W. Bush, California wildfires, the Virginia Tech shootings, President Barack Obama, Sarah Palin (easily Couric's most famous interview), Haiti, the Gulf Oil spill, Tahrir Square, the Japan tsunami and earthquakes, the royal wedding and, of course, the killing of Osama bin Laden.

"It's been an extraordinary privilege to sit in this chair," she said, concluding with this: "Thank you so much for coming along with me on this incredible journey."

Though far from a disaster, Couric's "Evening News" did falter almost immediately, if only because expectations were so high. Those were set by CBS and Couric, who had promised something of a paradigm shift in the nightly newscast, by focusing less on the hard, bulleted diet of news stories in favor of more explanatory journalism, interviews and even opinion.

The idea was to use Couric's celebrity to draw younger viewers; instead, she drew fewer (it ends with just under 6 million, in third place.) The show has taken on a hard, smart, and respectable edge in recent years but it was Couric who ended up feeling constrained. She's expected to launch a syndicated talk show.

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