Being No. 1 "was never an expectation by anyone at CBS News," says the anchor

The ratings for Katie Couric’s CBS Evening News may be down – but the upbeat anchor isn’t.

Claiming that despite her third-place ranking among the major three network newscasts, she’s “feeling great” and “having a great time,” Couric tells USA Today, “We kind of ignore people who are observing everything we do and praising, criticizing or analyzing it, and we’re just doing what we want.”

Couric, who delivered a ratings wallop with her Sept. 5 debut, says that being in first place “was never an expectation by anyone at CBS News, and it shouldn’t have been an expectation by anyone in the outside world. Viewing habits are slow to turn around.”

As such, she notes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will The CBS Evening News. It’s a process, and being in the middle of the process, while it’s sometimes challenging and can be frustrating, that’s really in many ways the fun part.”

She adds, “I’m hearing incredibly positive things from people who really appreciate the fact we’re trying new things. Not everything is going to work. I knew that coming in.”

Among the highlights was last week’s interview with Michael J. Fox a day after radio host Rush Limbaugh accused the actor of not taking his Parkinson’s disease medicine in order to accentuate his symptoms while shooting a commercial for a Democratic candidate favoring stem cell research.

Couric considered Thursday’s interview with Fox “absolutely riveting TV, not to mention an important news story.”

But because the Q&A was lengthy, the newscast’s widely criticized Free Speech segment didn’t run that night. Yet as Couric says, “We never said it was going to run every night. We said from the outset that we’re going to try new things and we may adjust and re-evaluate, but that doesn’t mean ‘Oh, it’s not working.’ ”

And the criticism? Bring it on, she says, “if it’s based on facts or from reporters who take the time to watch the program. But when they make snap judgments or do a kind of lemming-like journalism, that’s when I’m disappointed.”

Then again, proving she’s still as tough as she is upbeat, she adds, “People have to sell newspapers and take shots, but I understand that’s part of their jobs.”