05/01/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
During the morning, Katie Couric often poses tough questions to newsmakers on "Today." But will Katie in the a.m. be the same as Katie at night?
The TV host, 46, tells the Associated Press that the network gimmick of having her trade jobs with "Tonight" show emcee Jay Leno for one day -- May 12, during ratings sweeps -- should not harm her overall reputation as a journalist.
"Because I've been doing this show for 12 years and been in the news business for 24, I think my news credentials are pretty well established," says Couric. "It's given me the freedom to have fun and let my hair down. If you're asking me if this is a threat to my credibility, I don't think it is in any way, shape or form."
As for Leno, 53, having to put his hair up for the three hours, he'll be working with Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry on "Today," and Couric tells AP that he will probably be used sparingly in the show's first half-hour, when the real hard news is covered.
But that will still leave time for the entertainment and cooking segments.
Meanwhile, Leno tells the news service that already Couric is handing him suggestions, such as "Jay, it's the morning, so don't shout."
And as for assessing how Couric might fare with a late-night comic monologue, Leno says, "If a joke works, it's funny. If a joke doesn't work, that will be even funnier."