The news is bleak at CBS


CORRECTED 8:24 p.m. PT April 22, 2008

Those who say CBS anchor Katie Couric may not last in her job found additional ammunition in last week's ratings.

"CBS Evening News With Katie Couric" averaged 5.4 million viewers, according to data released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research. That was the lowest number recorded since Nielsen switched to people meters in 1987 and likely the lowest for an evening newscast since the early years. CBS' previous low of 5.5 million viewers was in September during Couric's weeklong series of reports from Iraq.

"Obviously we're frustrated by the ratings. We don't believe that the broadcast or Katie are getting the credit they deserve," CBS News senior vp Paul Friedman said. "It's a first-rate broadcast. Most people who watch it carefully inside and outside the broadcast will tell you that. She's doing a great job."

Friedman said the thing to do is to keep plugging away. Executive producer Rick Kaplan, who has for the past month or so been pulling morning duty as temporary executive producer of "The Early Show," will return to "CBS Evening News" in about a month or so.

Meanwhile, "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" won last week in viewership and the news demographic of adults 25-54 with 8.2 million viewers and a 1.9 rating/8 share. ABC's "World News With Charles Gibson" was close behind with 7.5 million viewers and a 1.8/8. "CBS Evening News" lagged with 5.4 million viewers and a 1.4.6.

It's been a difficult month for CBS News, which suffered dual blows in the press over the rumors of a CBS-CNN partnership and then talk that Couric might leave "CBS Evening News" sometime this year, well before the end of her five-year contract. CBS denied the CBS-CNN partnership but had more trouble with the Couric rumors. But Friday, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves made an appearance with CBS News president Sean McManus in the "CBS Evening News" newsroom and reiterated support for Couric.

O n Monday, however, Couric lost what promised to be her best shot at moderating a debate in the Democratic presidential cycle with news that the North Carolina Democratic Party had dropped its plans for a debate following "60 Minutes" on April 27.