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Bad form? Couric bypasses CBS, announces her impending departure in People magazine exclusive

Katie Couric strikes one of her last poses for CBS news. CBS photo

It takes little if any reading between the lines to deduce that CBS News isn't exactly thrilled about the way in which Katie Couric made her exit official.

"There's a lot to be proud of during Katie Couric's time at Evening News. CBS News, like Katie herself, is looking forward to the next chapter," the network said in a decidedly terse "CBS News Spokesperson" statement after its onetime mega-star exclusively told People magazine of her decision to leave the network.

Couric, whose CBS Evening News never got out of third place during her nearly five years as anchor, spilled her beans to People in an interview posted early Tuesday afternoon. "I have decided to step down from the CBS Evening News," she said in comments to the less than hard newsy magazine. "I'm really proud of the talented team on the CBS Evening News and the award-winning work we've been able to do in the past five years in addition to the reporting I've done for 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday Morning. In making the decision to move on, I know the Evening News will be in great hands, but I am excited about the future."

Those great hands are expected to belong to 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, who worked at D-FW stations KXAS-TV (Ch. 5) and then WFAA-TV (Ch. 8) before joining CBS News in 1989.

It's been widely rumored that Couric, 54, will next go the daytime talk show route, with ABC lately in a prime position to snag her according to the latest word on this front. She told People that her post-CBS future is "still being discussed," but "I am looking at a format that will allow me to engage in more multi-dimensional storytelling . . . I have a lot of areas of interest and I want to be able to full all of that."

Her pact with CBS expires on June 4th, and she'll supposedly be covering the royal wedding before taking a hike. That is, if CBS doesn't decide to ground her in light of Tuesday's chilly response to the People exclusive.

Announcements of such high-level departures almost always are handled by the network that's saying goodbye. This one clearly wasn't, indicating a frosty relationship between the two parties after Couric apparently decided against working for CBS in some other capacity.

Any Couric-hosted talk show likely wouldn't start until fall 2012, giving those hoping to fill Oprah Winfrey's impending void a full year to either solidify themselves or fail to make their marks.

Couric received a reported $15 million annual salary at CBS. Pelley's pay, should he be anointed, assuredly will far below that level. In the latest national Nielsen ratings, released Tuesday, the CBS Evening News averaged 5.7 million viewers for the week of April 18-22), again running well behind the NBC Nightly News (8.4 million viewers) and ABC's World News (7.7 million viewers).