“Divas At Dawn: How Diane Sawyer Ate Katie Couric’s Breakfast”

By Brian 

…And that’s just the cover headline. Inside the magazine, New York calls it “Duel at Sunrise:” The June 6 cover story is a narrative of Katie Couric vs. Diane Sawyer.

“If Today or GMA were to cover the story,” Meryl Gordon writes, “they’d be virtually bound by the dictates of morning-TV-speak to call it a catfight.” If you don’t have time to read the full 5,000+ word piece, here are the highlights. Most of them relate to Katie Couric:

> On the day Tom Touchet was fired, Couric called him to suggest a story for the next day. “When Touchet explained that he had been let go and wouldn’t be producing the show, Couric blurted out, ‘That wasn’t supposed to happen until Friday.'” Touchet “subsequently told his friends that Couric didn’t even try to fake the usual so-sorry-wish-you-well niceties; instead she abruptly ended the call.”

> ABC’s David Westin can’t resist a shot at Katie: “Diane’s never had to overcome the girl-next-door cheerleader personality — that’s a tough piece of business. If that’s not such a plausible thing anymore, it’s hard to know where you go with that persona.”

“Without Zucker around, Today hasn’t had a leader powerful enough to either make Couric happy or rein her in.”

> Couric’s “detractors ran up through the ranks at NBC. ‘She’s surrounded herself with suck-ups,’ says one. ‘It’s never her fault.’ Says another, ‘She can be phenomenally wonderful and generous, and when you’re in her presence you feel great. But there’s a flip side, and it isn”t pretty.'”

> An NBC source says Couric was “very upset about the Alessandra Stanley piece.”

> “With GMA closing in on Today in recent weeks, there are rumors going around NBC that the unthinkable could happen — that Couric’s contract, which is up next May, might not be renewed.” Today exec Phil Griffin says “nobody is talking about that…we’re going to keep Katie.”

Gordon’s conclusion about how the gap tightened: “In the end, GMA didn’t creep up on Today with any one dramatic move. They narrowed the divide with a smart, slow march of small innovations. And like a good political team, they sat back, and let the other guy screw up.”

> Also: The end of the story hints at impending changes to Today’s format: “Today’s new team of producers, meanwhile, has decided to showcase Couric and Lauer more. ‘We’ve got the two best ad-libbers in the business — we’re giving them more room to talk so they’re not so tightly produced,’ says Griffin. ‘We’ve got to be more aggressive. We’ve got to be stronger and get bookings.'”

> Gawker: “if we’re lucky, the phrase ‘morning ratings war’ will replace ‘the war on terror.'”