×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CBS Hopes Norah O’Donnell’s Scoops Spark New Morning Views

Norah O’Donnell, a veteran Washington correspondent, has long been able to keep her cool when interviewing a senator, even the President. But when Serena Williams entered the “CBS This Morning” studio a few years ago, the CBS reporter had to gather her wits.

Williams had just won the U.S. Open, and was making an appearance on “CBS This Morning” during O’Donnell’s first year as a co-anchor on the program. “I remember just being gobsmacked by her power and beauty. I think I asked a question like, ‘What’s it like being a role model for young girls?’” the reporter recalled. “And the producer in my ear said, ‘That’s a really dumb question.’”

O’Donnell isn’t tongue tied around celebrities anymore – or other newsmakers, for that matter. In recent weeks, she’s notched an eyebrow-raising number of headline moments, including touching down in hurricane-torn Texas; snaring an interview with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady; and landing access to Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip, to see his return to the Capitol after being shot earlier this year. In Las Vegas after the recent tragic shooting there, she was able to get an ATF agency to divulge exclusively the gunman had purchased 33 firearms within the past year.

“Getting her out into the field more and letting her report and showcase her skills as a story teller is, I think, really essential to our strategy, to our growth going forward,” said Ryan Kadro, executive producer of “CBS This Morning.”

O’Donnell’s recent string of scoops spotlights the continually growing importance of TV’s sundry morning shows. It’s not that an evening-news anchor wouldn’t or couldn’t do what O’Donnell has been doing in recent weeks. But in another era, CBS’s morning programs didn’t have as much momentum. While the show remains in third place among the broadcast-network A.M. offerings, it has made noticeable strides against NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” in recent seasons.

O’Donnell must spend some time behind the desk at the program, said David Rhodes, president of CBS News, but “when we can deploy her, we do want her to take those big assignments.”

The spark for O’Donnell’s recent story streak came at a July lunch, says Kadro. As the two dined on Greek salad and branzino, they talked about getting her out in the field more, in an effort to let her reporting help boost the program, along, of course, with similar contributions for her co-anchors Gayle King and Charlie Rose.

She says she often relies on “shoe-leather” reporting to help move a story forward, even one that many others are also covering. When she was on the ground around Houston in the aftermath of Harvey,  she and her CBS crew found themselves near the  George R. Brown Convention Center,which the Red Cross was using as its main shelter in the area. The organization wasn’t letting cameras in, she had been told, but “I was invited in by an evacuee, and I went in with just a small camera with one producer,” she recounts. “What we found was a really dire situation.” Only limited resources were available, and some people had to sleep on the floor. “One of the wealthiest neighborhoods in America was just a mile away,” she says.

O’Donnell is no stranger to wandering around places. As a ten-year old, she wound up doing some work for a Korean TV station. She spent part of her childhood in South Korea and Germany, the result of her father’s 30-year stint in the U.S. Army.  Newspapers played an important role in her house, because the information they contained might affect where her father was stationed and what he had to do. Magazines like the Journal of the American Medical Association, Time and National Geographic were often found within easy reach.

“The news always mattered in my house,” she recalled. “My mom would not throw away the entire newspaper until she read the entire newspaper, and understood it.”

O’Donnell hadn’t planned to host a morning program. “I thought I would stay in Washington and cover politics and maybe host a Sunday show,” she says. “This was something unexpected.” After filling in on the show for a few days, she suddenly found herself getting an offer to step aboard permanently.

Now, she works to balance a host of breaking stories and daily responsibilities with longer-term projects. O’Donnell has more things in the works: some science reporting that looks into genetics and a series of profiles of “people who every day are carrying out great acts.” She is looking forward to interviewing Lionel Richie, who is one of this year’s Kennedy Center honorees. “My first two tapes were Lionel Richie and Jack Wagner,” she says. When she does meet the musician, chances are she will have a lot of good questions for him at the ready.

More TV

  • A.P. BIO -- "Melvin" Episode 208

    'AP Bio' Canceled After Two Seasons at NBC

    “AP Bio” has been canceled at NBC. Series creator Mike O’Brien shared the news with fans on Twitter, writing that “This has been my favorite project of my life.” In the single-camera comedy, Glenn Howerton portrayed a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar who lost out on his dream job and was forced to return to Toledo, [...]

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism

    CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism Staffers

    CNN has laid off a handful of staffers from its health-journalism unit after deciding to place its health, climate and Southeastern newsgathering operations under a single aegis. ” As part of the normal course of business, our newsgathering team made a small restructure earlier this week that ultimately impacts 6-7 employees within CNN’s Health Unit,” [...]

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content