Couric ‘chomping at the bit’ to start new ABC gig

Nearly five months after leaving the “CBS Evening News” anchor chair, Katie Couric says she’s still getting used to staying on the sidelines during breaking news.

“Sometimes it feels strange not to be in the thick of things,” she said. “But I also think after 20 years of being on television every single day, it’s a nice opportunity to take a break. So I’m OK with it, actually.”

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Yet it seems taking a break might be unfamiliar territory for the veteran TV journalist and Arlington, Va., native. Couric, 54, says she’s “chomping at the bit to get going” on her upcoming ABC talk show, “Katie,” which isn’t set to debut until the fall of 2012.

Couric won’t divulge many details about hew new gig. Asked who she’d love to have on her show as a guest, she responded with a sly smile, telling ITK, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” 

Before she starts at ABC, the former “Today” host will make occasional appearances on the network and is keeping busy on the charity circuit.

Couric was back in her home region, with mom Elinor as her date, to emcee Thursday’s Habitat for Humanity “Build Hope” gala at the National Building Museum. The organization has built, rehabilitated or repaired half a million homes since it began 35 years ago. It’s a cause that became close to Couric’s heart after she witnessed the devastation from last year’s earthquake in Haiti firsthand while on assignment for CBS News: “This event is really important to me because it’s putting a spotlight on Haiti, and I’ve been to Haiti a few times right after the earthquake and then a year later. And it’s so important to continue to focus on Haiti.”

The television celeb says she hopes to make it back to the country and feels a “very strong bond” with the people she met there. Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, says it’s clear that Couric has a “heart for our mission.”

Couric said her heart is also still in the profession she began in 1979 as a desk assistant at ABC News. While former “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw joked at a Washington forum last week that his advice for aspiring journalists who want to break into the business would be to “try to get into medical school,” Couric contends that it’s still a “really attractive career option.”

Despite the declining revenue at many newspapers across the country, Couric is optimistic about the industry: “With this changing landscape you can see it as shrinking in certain areas, traditional news media perhaps, but you can also see it as opening so many doors … I think the same things that guided journalists 50 years ago should be guiding them today: getting the story, getting it right, illuminating something that hasn’t been exposed, righting a wrong, fighting for social justice. I think all those things that I think attract people to journalism are needed today as much as ever.”