CHUNG, CONNIE

U.S. Broadcast Journalist

Connie Chung is one of a very small group of women who have achieved prominence in American network news. Along with Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Jane Pauley, Chung is one of the leading female journalists on television. Until 1995 she co-anchored the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, as well as Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, a primetime news hour. Following considerable controversy over her interviewing style and reportorial skills, and during which it was reported that Rather had never been happy with the co-anchor arrangement, Chung parted ways with CBS in 1995.

Chung began her journalism career in 1969 as a copyperson at WTTG-TV, Washington, D.C., a Metromedia affiliate, where she later became a newswriter and on-air reporter. She first joined CBS News in 1971, working as a Washington-based correspondent from 1971-76, covering Watergate, Capitol Hill and the 1972 presidential campaign. In 1976 she joined KNXT (now KCBS-TV) the CBS-owned television station in Los Angeles, working on both local and network broadcasts. In her seven years in Los Angeles, Chung co-anchored three daily newscasts, and was a substitute anchor for the CBS Morning News and CBS News' weekend and evening broadcasts. She also anchored CBS News' Newsbreak for the Pacific time zones.

Chung left CBS to join NBC News as a correspondent and anchor. Her assignments included anchoring the Saturday edition of the NBC Nightly News, NBC News at Sunrise, NBC Digests several primetime news specials and the newsmagazine, 1986. She was also contributing correspondent and substitute anchor on the NBC Nightly News broadcast. Chung served as political analysis correspondent and podium correspondent during the 1988 president campaign and political conventions.

When she joined Dan Rather as co-anchor of the CBS Evening News, Chung became only the second woman to hold a network anchor job, following Barbara Walters' brief stint as co-anchor with Harry Reasoner on ABC in the mid-1970s. The male-female anchor pairing, already a staple of local news seemed designed also to capitalize on Chung's recognizability. In the Q-ratings (a set of measurements provided by a company called Marketing Evaluations, that gauge the popularity of people who appear on television), Chung has always scored extremely high. At the lime she was named co-anchor, she had one of the highest Q-ratings of any woman in network news. In 1990 she was chosen "favorite interviewer" in U.S. News & World Report's Best of America survey.

In unexpected ways, Chung has foregrounded issues of concern to working women. In 1990, she took the unusual step of announcing plans to postpone her magazine series Face to Face With Connie Chung in order to take time to conceive a child with her husband, syndicated daytime television talk show host Maury Povich. Chung has also been part of the trend toward using newscast anchors on prime-time programs. Her work on nighttime news shows has sometimes drawn criticism, as when the short-lived Saturday Night with Connie Chung was tagged as "infotainment" and charged with undermining the credibility of network news by using controversial techniques such as dramatic re-enactments. Chung was again involved in controversy in early l995, when in an interview with Kathryn Gingrich, the mother of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Chung urged her subject to whisper her son's comments about First Lady Hilary Clinton "just between us." The whisper was picked up by the microphone and used by Chung for broadcast, drawing attacks on Chung's journalistic integrity. This incident was followed by conflict over Chung's assignment to cover the Oklahoma City bombing incident, CBS's apparent plans to "demote" her to the position of weekend anchor, and possibly to cancel her prime time program Eye to Eye with Connie Chung. Accompanied by an almost palpable strain on the set of the CBS Evening News, as well as by the program's declining ratings, these events led to Chung's departure from CBS amidst charges of sexism, and counter-charges of a lack of journalistic seriousness.

-Diane M. Negra

 


Connie Chung
Photo courtesy of Connie Chung/ Tony Esparza

CONNIE CHUNG. Born Constance Yu-Hwa Chung in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., 20 August 1946. Educated at University of Maryland, B.A. in journalism, 1969. Married: Maurice (Maury) Richard Povich, 1984; children: Matthew Jay. Reporter, WTTG-TV, Washington, 1969-71; correspondent, CBS News, Washington, 1971-76; anchor, KNXT-TV (CBS), Los Angeles, 1976-83; anchor, NBC News, 1983-89 and NBC News Specials, 1987-89; anchor, Saturday Night With Connie Chung, CBS, CBS Evening News (Sunday), 1989-92; co-anchor, CBS Evening News, 1993-95; currently developing a news magazine show, with her husband, for DreamWorks SKG, projected to begin Fall, 1998. Honorary degrees: D.J., Norwich University, 1974; L.H.D., Brown University, 1987. Honorary member: Pepperdine University broadcast club, 1981. Recipient: Metro Area Mass Media Award, American Association of University Women (AAUW), 1971; Outstanding Excellence in News Reporting and Public Service Award, Chinese-American Citizens Alliance, 1973; award for best TV reporting, Los Angeles Press Club, 1977; award for outstanding TV broadcasting, Valley Press Club, 1977; Emmy Awards, 1978, 1980, and 1987; Peabody Award, 1980; Newscaster of the Year Award, Temple Emmanuel Brotherhood, 1981; Portraits of Excellence Award, B'nai B'rith, Pacific S.W. Region, 1980; First Amendment Award, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1981.

TELEVISION SERIES

1983-89 NBC Nightly News (anchor and reporter)
1983-89 Today Show (anchor and reporter)
1983-89 News Digest (anchor and reporter)
1983-89 NBC News at Sunrise (anchor and reporter) 1985-86 American Almanac (co-host)
1985-86 1986 (co-host)
1989-95 CBS Evening News (reporter)
1989-90 Saturday Night with Connie Chung (host)
1990 Face to Face with Connie Chung (host)
1993-95 CBS Evening News (co-anchor)
1993-95 Eye to Eye with Connie Chung

TELEVISION SPECIALS

1980 Terra Our World
1987 NBC News Report on America: Life in the Fat Lane
1987 Scared Sexless
1988 NBC News Reports on America: Stressed to Kill 1988 Everybody's Doing It

FURTHER READING

Anderson, Kurt. "Does Connie Chung Matter?" Time (New York), 31 May 1993.

Carter. Bill. "Chung to Join Rather." The New York Times, 18 May 1993.

Conant, Jennet. "Broadcast Networking: Despite What You've Heard, the Women of TV News Feel a Strong Sense of Solidarity." Working Woman (New York), August 1990.

Frank, Reuven. "Connie Chung at the Circus." The New Leader (New York), 8 May 1995.

"A Future Affair." MediaWeek (Brewster, New York), 10 June 1996.

Hosley, David H., and Gayle K. Yamada. Hard News: Women In Broadcast Journalism. New York: Greenwood, 1987.

Reibstein, Larry. "Irreconcilable Ratings." Newsweek (New York), 5 June 1995.

Westin, Av. Newswatch: How TV Decides the News. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

Wolf, Steve. "Weighing Anchors." Time (New York), 15 May 1995.