Fifth Estater

Morning TV's New Leading Lady

O'Donnell bringing her White House chops to 'CBS This Morning' 9/03/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Norah O’Donnell

Title:

Cohost, CBS This Morning (beginning Sept. 10)

Education:

B.A., philosophy, 1995, and M.A., liberal studies, 2003, Georgetown University

Employment Highlights:

Staff reporter, Roll Call, 1997-99

Contributor, MSNBC, 1997-99

Correspondent, NBC News, 1999-2002

Congressional correspondent, NBC News, 2002-04

White House correspondent, NBC News, 2004-05

Chief Washington correspondent and anchor, MSNBC, 2005-11

Chief White House correspondent, CBS News, 2011-12

Personal:

b. Jan. 23, 1974; married to Geoff Tracy; twins Grace and Henry, 5; daughter Riley, 4

“Well good morning to you as well, Norah,” former
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says to audible chuckles
on the air.

It’s July 18, and Norah O’Donnell,
CBS News’ chief White House correspondent,
has just refuted Pawlenty’s
claim on CBS This Morning that Mitt
Romney’s release of two years of tax
returns is “standard” by enumerating
a list of facts, including the point
that recent Republican
presidential candidates
have released 10 to 30
years’ worth of returns.
O’Donnell may be just
filling in for the week
on CTM, but it’s clear
she feels at home challenging
guests from the
anchor desk.

Later that day, over
coffee at Essex House
on New York’s Central
Park South, O’Donnell
cited the Pawlently exchange
as an example of what she sees
as increasingly fewer opportunities for
journalists to hold politicians’ feet to
the fire—chances she tries to seize.

“I think facts are really important
things,” O’Donnell said. “I try myself,
personally, to make sure that both candidates
get held accountable for what
they say and what the facts are.”

The following week, O’Donnell
was named to replace Erica Hill as
cohost of CBS This Morning, the first
full-time anchor job of her 13-year TV
career. Chris Licht, CBS News VP of
programming and executive producer
of CTM, said the way O’Donnell challenged
Pawlenty in the interview “kind
of blew me away” and reinforced the
qualities he first noticed in her Morning
Joe
appearances when both of them
were at MSNBC—her ability to think
on her feet and pop off the screen.

While O’Donnell said she has always
seen herself more as a reporter than an
anchor (though as a 10-year-old, while
her father was deployed in Seoul, she
helmed a show on Korean
public television
meant to teach students
English), she regards the
morning gig as the ideal
platform for her strong
interviewing skills.

“Ten hours of network
TV [per week]
is sort of the crown
jewel of broadcasting,”
O’Donnell said in late
July in Los Angeles,
having just appeared
before the Television
Critics Association with fellow CTM
cohosts Charlie Rose and Gayle King.
“The morning shows are an excellent
way to interview the big guests. To be
fair and firm and do those big interviews
is something I’ve long wanted a
bigger platform [for].”

In June 2011, CBS News first came
to O’Donnell with an offer she couldn’t
turn down when the network lured her
away from NBC News, her home for
12 years, to be its chief White House
correspondent—a role few women have
held, she points out—as well as principal
substitute on Face the Nation and
contributor to 60 Minutes.

O’Donnell said she is a little sad to
leave the White House beat, having covered
politics her entire career. She first
“caught the bug” as an intern at ABC
News’ Washington bureau during her
senior year at Georgetown. She went
on to a job at Hotline, the online political
tipsheet that groomed other top
journos like NBC’s Chuck Todd, ABC’s
Amy Walter and Politico’s Ben White;
she calls it her “crash course in politics.”

But while the mother of three young
children already considers herself a
morning person, the harder adjustment
will be leaving Washington, where her
husband owns a chain of restaurants,
her kids attend school, and she is involved
in charities. At least through the
presidential inauguration next January,
her family will remain in D.C. and she
will commute to New York every week
while looking for a place to live.

Those around O’Donnell are confident the professional transition from
correspondent to morning anchor will
be a seamless one, though.

“Norah naturally likes people, is interested
in people, is interested in their
stories,” said Ann Compton, ABC News
Radio White House correspondent and
an early mentor of O’Donnell’s. “And
that’s the whole key to morning anchoring—
being interested in what’s developing
out there and seeing how it relates
to the people who are watching.”

After reporting from the Democratic
National Convention in Charlotte,
N.C., this week, where O’Donnell is
CBS’ podium correspondent, she will
transition to her new morning role on
Sept. 10, though Licht is not planning
anything to get her up to speed.

“As far the mechanics of doing television
and hosting the show, she’s already
there,” Licht said.

E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com
and follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito

Norah O’Donnell

Title:

Cohost, CBS This Morning (beginning Sept. 10)

Education:

B.A., philosophy, 1995, and M.A., liberal studies, 2003, Georgetown University

Employment Highlights:

Staff reporter, Roll Call, 1997-99

Contributor, MSNBC, 1997-99

Correspondent, NBC News, 1999-2002

Congressional correspondent, NBC News, 2002-04

White House correspondent, NBC News, 2004-05

Chief Washington correspondent and anchor, MSNBC, 2005-11

Chief White House correspondent, CBS News, 2011-12

Personal:

b. Jan. 23, 1974; married to Geoff Tracy; twins Grace and Henry, 5; daughter Riley, 4

September
October