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Associated Press, Published October 09 2009

Couric makes first visit to SD to receive journalism award

VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) - ``CBS Evening News' anchor Katie Couric says traditional, in-depth journalism is becoming a rare commodity, and interviewers should not shy away from tough questions.

``Following up is not just a skill, it's a responsibility,' said Couric, whose father was a journalist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and United Press International. ``So is calling people out at times.'

Couric spoke at the University of South Dakota on Thursday after receiving the 2009 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media. The annual lifetime achievement award is named for USA Today founder Al Neuharth, a South Dakota native and 1950 USD graduate.

Walter Cronkite, one of Couric's predecessors on the CBS newscast, received the first Neuharth award 20 years ago.

Couric began her career in 1979 as an ABC News desk assistant in Washington, D.C., before jumping ship to upstart cable network CNN, a place ``where everyone did everything.'

``They practically let the janitor on the air in those days,' she quipped.

She got further experience at WTVJ in Miami and WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., before Tim Russert hired her to report for NBC News from the Pentagon. She then spent 15 years as co-anchor of NBC News' ``Today' show.

Couric made her ``CBS Evening News' debut in September 2006, becoming the first female solo anchor of a weekday network evening newscast.

Starting in January, women will anchor two of the three major nightly TV newscasts when Diane Sawyer takes over ``World News Tonight' at ABC. Couric called the development ``a great thing.'

``In an increasingly fragmented landscape, the evening news still has a very significant role,' Couric told a news conference before the speech.

Couric said the job of keeping up with the 24-hour news cycle works against more in-depth reporting on cable networks. She pointed out that CBS had spent the previous three nightly news shows entirely on the situation in Afghanistan.

``That was a very brave thing for CBS News to do,' she said.

Asked her advice for students, Couric said they should do what they are passionate about. She urged young people to work hard and volunteer for extra duty if they want to get ahead.

``If you love your work, it won't be work.'

Associated Press Writer Tena Haraldson contributed to this report.