Skimm'd from The Couch: Norah O'Donnell

Jul 8, 2020

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Norah O’Donnell is the most-watched woman in news in the country. She is the anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, making her the third woman ever to solo anchor a network evening broadcast. As she approaches her 1 year anniversary in the anchor chair, Norah sat down with us to talk us through the secret to her success. Think: a lot of preparation. And six newspapers a day. 

On Preparation

Norah: I do believe that preparation builds confidence and confidence builds success. And so for me, certainly early on in my career as a young correspondent with so many famous people at NBC who have legendary careers, my confidence wasn't as high. And so I thought, 'How can I be the smartest person in the room and know more than anybody else?'

I just really did my homework. I really worked really hard to make sure I knew everything.

On Building A Support Network

Danielle: Looking at you now, it seems like just such a given that you have that confidence, but where does that come from? How did you develop it? Were you always like that, kind of letting the criticism roll off?

Norah: No. I mean, certainly criticism still stings. No doubt. I think confidence comes from a strong support system...

I mean, you reach out to your friends when you're feeling down or when something's gone wrong. So we do that in a personal setting. We need to do it in a professional setting and build a strong network of people around you who support you.

But really the most important thing that helps me build confidence is the quality of my work, and the quality of the interviews that we do, and that people trust me and trust CBS News.

On A New Era Of News

Danielle: There's the role that you play as a journalist. And also there's the role that you play as a leader and a key figure at a news division. You took over as the anchor of the 'Evening News' following a difficult time at CBS; some people at the top were let go because of inappropriate conduct or sexual misconduct, including your former co-anchor, Charlie Rose. Whether you expected to or not, you and your boss, Susan Zirinsky, have represented the future of a news division and and really a different time in news. 

Norah: What I said on the air that morning and then I repeated again when other instances happened at CBS News... was that women cannot achieve full equality in the workplace until there's a reckoning. And there has to be zero tolerance. And, I mean, I was pretty direct...on the air. And I had friends look over exactly what I was going to say because I wanted every word to be perfect. And I wanted it to stand the test of time.

...The interesting thing that I've learned just now is that those instances are really, really hard, but the change and the growth that happens after is good. It's positive. It's right… The reckoning that we went through has led to what is one of the most rewarding times ever in my career.

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