Meet Deborah Norville
My entire career in television is attributable to one weekend the fall of my senior year in high school. It was the weekend after football playoffs and before the SAT tests. Having nothing else to do, I decided on a lark to enter the Whitfield Co. (GA) Junior Miss Pageant.
I won! That look of stunned surprise on my face is because my talent was sewing! The shock was bigger when I won Georgia’s Junior Miss. The sponsors of the pageant asked me, "Don’t you sing when you sew, or tap dance when you sew?" "Nope," I replied. "I pretty much just sit there and sew."
Again, they no doubt sighed, Georgia wouldn’t win at America’s Junior Miss. And to think, my talent was sewing and I still won!
That's me on the left at the televised finals introducing Michael Landon to the CBS Television audience. That technician laying at my feet and the other production staff seemed to have so much fun working the long hours they did, that I decided to get into television.
Before I was in the pageant, I wanted to study Law. I took the research part of Law that had intrigued me, married it with TV production and dreamed up that I'd be a TV reporter.
And before long, I was.
Even before I graduated from college, I was working as a reporter at WAGA-TV 5 in Atlanta.
This is a shot of me covering a Civil War re-enactment for the weekend news. I'd been lucky enough to get an internship in college that caught the attention of the station manager, who for reasons I will never understand, gave me a gopher's job for the summer.
When I graduated, they made me weekend anchor. I think it was because I worked really cheap! By the time I was 23, I was ready to move past my home state of Georgia and see if I could make it up north.
My age, coupled with my Southern accent and the fact that I moved to Chicago in January (no sane person would move there then!) assured my new colleagues at WMAQ-TV that I must have been as dumb as a fence post.
I was certainly young. In fact, when I was signing my contract, my new boss paused, mid-signature and said, "How old are you anyway?" The feminist in me knew he couldn't ask that question, but the rest of me wanted the job. I answered. He said, "That's about the same age Jane Pauley was when she came here," and continued signing.
There were some tremendous stories during my time in the Windy City. Shortly after I arrived, the Tylenol murders happened, a Presidential primary had us all on edge and then Mexico City was devastated by an earthquake. We covered it because Chicago has a huge Mexican population. The stench and the dust were choking!
I started out as a General Assignment reporter and eventually became the 4:30 news anchor, which meant-- I got my own office!
I also began what has become a lifetime of service to charities that have special meaning to me. While in Chicago, I helped launch the local Arthritis Foundation Telethon.
It was a simple broadcast, done in a local mall--but it meant so much to me to bring attention and help raise money for Arthritis sufferers. My late mother had suffered terribly from Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Chicago was also the place where I truly felt like I was a part of a team. And the Channel 5 News team back then was awesome.
A highlight was when our entire news group took the stage at the local Emmy's celebrating our win for our coverage the hijacking in 1985 of TWA Flight 847.
That was the one that bounced around the Middle East for two weeks, with a number of passengers from Illinois.
Eventually New York beckoned and in January of 1987, I came to NBC as anchor of "News at Sunrise." I was only 28, but I think I was trying to look older and 'fiercer' judging by the publicity photo they took back then!
The hairstyles kept changing though I’m not sure they ever got any better. Fortunately, the assignments did.
Changing of the Guard: Jane Pauley handing off her seat (and alarm clock) to me!
Meeting President Nixon on TODAY
And it was at TODAY that I became pregnant with my first child.
Broadcasting With Bryant Gumbel in Central Park & Boston
After my son, Niki was born, I opted NOT to go back to TODAY.
I didn't think I'd work in broadcasting again, but ABC Radio called and asked me to host a talk show from my home.
After about a year on the radio, I figured my confidence (and my hairstyle) were such that I could give television another shot. God Bless CBS. Eric Ober and Howard Stringer hired me to report on Street Stories, a terrific newsmagazine fronted by Ed Bradley.
They took that show off the air (and I bet they've always regretted they did - the team did such wonderful reporting) but those of us who remained were assigned to America Tonight, another primetime magazine.
That show also eventually went off the air, but not before I had the chance to report an amazing story about an American woman who hired former Delta Force commandos to kidnap her son back from her Tunisian-born ex-husband.
Reporting that story was tremendously exciting but also a cause for soul searching: How could I leave my own family to go off reporting from the world's far corners?
That's when I joined INSIDE EDITION. My network experience and credibility came at a time when the show was making some changes - and the chance to anchor a daily broadcast based in New York meant I'd be home most of the time.
There are some assignments, great assignments, out of town: covering the crash of an American Airlines jet in Cali, Colombia or interviewing Paula Jones in her first wide-ranging interview about her lawsuit against the President.
Anchoring INSIDE EDITION-- September 16, 1997.
Hours after Mikaela Katharina was born, which incidentally was the same week "Back On Track: How To Straighten Out Your Life When It Throws You A Curve" was published. I was thrilled to see my first book in print - but admit the timing was terrible.
Out of the blue came an amazing opportunity to host my own hour at 9pm on MSNBC. Deborah Norville Tonight premiered in January 2004, giving me a chance to speak more directly to the news stories of the day, whether it was the war in Iraq, the crisis in Darfur or the on-going saga of the Scott Peterson murder trial.
Life goes in funny circles. Turns out the studio NBC assigned me at Rockefeller Center was the SAME studio from which I anchored NBC News at Sunrise many years before, Studio 3K. It's a place with good karma for me, a studio filled with lots of happy memories.
The morning after my first night on the air, I got a wonderful phone call from Bob Wright, head of NBC who said, "Do the same thing every night - you've got a winner." And we DID have a winner. I was given an incredible team of producers and bookers and we did some great shows. But ultimately, the time commitment was simply too much.
There I was on commercial breaks during Inside Edition, feverishly typing away on my Blackberry some reply regarding the nighttime show.
Increasingly the show was being done live, which meant I got home long after my family had gone to bed. There I sat, correcting homework on the floor at 10:45pm - spending a quick five minutes going over the mistakes with my child the next morning during breakfast. It wasn't fair to anyone: not my family, not MSNBC, not Inside Edition. So a year after we went on the air, we ended the show. Proud of what we'd accomplished, and a bit more clear eyed that what we'd bitten off was more than we could chew.
In May 2005, I was thrilled to be recognized by the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York for my 16 years service as a member of their Board of Directors. My pal Joan Rivers hosted the event, which raised about $600,000 for the Girl Scouts and I was pleased to see family, friends, and my colleagues from Inside Edition there.
Most days, I'm reporting from the studio in New York which both my family and I like just fine.
Surprisingly, 'limiting' myself to being in New York has been anything but limiting. I give a lot of time and try to raise money and publicity for the Alzheimer's Association's Rita Hayworth Gala and the Girl Scout Council of New York City, on whose Board of Directors I sit. I was also the 2002 National Celebrity Spokesperson for the Mothers March of Dimes.
I totally agree with Marian Wright Edleman's statement: "Service is the rent we pay for living." That's why I'm also on the Board of Directors for the Broadcasters' Foundation of America. This amazing group provides emergency funding for current and former broadcasters in need (radio, TV, etc.)
It's funny how writing has become such an important part of my life. When I wanted to make a point to my then young son about video games, I wrote a poem about a kid who couldn't sleep. That turned into a pop-up book for children called "I Don't Want To Sleep Tonight." It was followed by "I Can Fly" which encourages kids to try lots of things to find out what their 'gift' is.
2008 was a busy year. The nation was in the depths of the financial collapse -- but despite the dire times, Premier Yarns and I teamed up to launch the Deborah Norville Collection of yarns for knit and crochet enthusiasts.
My hometown was the center of the wall-to-wall carpet industry, so I've always been around yarn. My earlier days of knitting were with carpet yarn -- not exactly friendly to your hands! To have my name on a super soft yarn that feels simply wonderful is a dream. We started with just four different yarns. Today the Deborah Norville Collection is 20-plus yarns and counting!
2009 was the year I published "Power of Respect," a book which used peer reviewed scientific research to make the case for respectful behavior. Students learn better, businesses make more, couples and families are happier if you just inject a little respect into the equation. That's one battle that has yet to be won - but you can't say I haven't tried to make a difference.
For many years, I've been part of a business conference in which I debrief top-performing executives. I've learned a lot about best practices, preparing companies for transactions, accessing credit markets and the like. In 2013, I was elected to the board of the Viacom Corporation which enables me to bring some of that knowledge along with decades of television experience to the home of the world's premier entertainment brands. Viacom reaches roughly 700 million people through its MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, Spike, CMT, TV Land, and many other brands, including Paramount Pictures.
In October 2014, I was humbled to be honored by the American Cancer Society as a "Mother of the Year." I acknowledged to the crowd that I was pretty sure my children had not been consulted. But my husband, Karl, was. He presented me with the award, after opening his remarks with this line, "The last time I gave my wife anything in public was 27 years ago -- it was a ring." You could just see the ladies in the audience melt! Am I a lucky gal, or what?
2016 Broadcasting Hall of Fame Induction