Besieged CBS executives reportedly have approached “Today” show co-host Katie Couric about replacing outgoing evening news anchor Dan Rather.

Couric, 48, still has 16 months on her NBC contract, but Time magazine says it has confirmed with CBS sources speculation that she’s at the top of a short list of candidates for Rather’s job when he vacates it in March.

Couric has not publicly lobbied for the job, but she has said a woman should be considered. “Whoever anchors those newscasts is really the face of the entire network news division. Why is it always white guys we’re talking about?” Couric recently said on the “Today” show.

Other contenders for Rather’s post are ABC’s Ted Koppel, CBS White House correspondent John Roberts and rising CNN star Anderson Cooper.

Whoever gets the job will have the mission of rehabilitating the tarnished image of “CBS Evening News,” still smarting from a report that slapped the network for using bogus documents in a report on President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service.

“I think CBS was hurt greatly by this,” Linda Mason, CBS’ senior vice president for standards and practices, said Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

CBS news producer Mary Mapes and three other staffers were fired last week for using the dubious documents as the basis for their flawed scoop on Bush.

Mason said that it “is totally untrue” that politics played a role in the debunked story, which aired Sept. 8.

“This was the case of a producer … who was passionate about her story,” Mason said.

Mapes’ husband said Sunday that his wife had no comment.

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