PAULEY, JANE

U.S. Broadcast Journalist

Jane Pauley is best known as long-time morning broadcaster for NBC's Today Show, an NBC news reporter, and, most recently, as a co-host for NBC's popular news magazine, Dateline. Her career began at the age of 21, when she was hired as daytime and weekend caster at WISH-TV in Indianapolis. Four years later she was appointed as the first woman to anchor the evening news at WMAQ, Chicago. Despite low ratings, Pauley was selected in 1976 to interview as a possible successor to Barbara Walters as Tom Brokaw's co-host on NBC's Today. Competing with well-known reporters Linda Ellerbee and Betty Rolin, Pauley was chosen for the position, shocking the industry and disappointing critics who found her too cheery, young and pretty. Though fans embraced Pauley for these qualities, NBC News President Dick Wald defended Pauley's hire based on her poise and control. Her honest address and family commitment, radically different from the more reserved Diane Sawyer, made Pauley popular with female baby-boomers. Pauley spent the next thirteen years co-hosting Today. Her team ushered the program past ABC's Good Morning America, to become the number one morning show in the United States.

When NBC hired Bryant Gumble, a sportscaster with no news experience, to succeed Tom Brokaw as head anchor, a compliant Pauley remained in the co-anchor seat. Her career seemed to flounder still more when renowned Washington reporters Chris Wallace and Judy Woodruff joined the morning group, pushing Pauley to the periphery. Finally, in 1989, NBC brought attractive, 31-year-old Debra Norville to the Today team, to attract a youthful audience. Sensing she would soon be replaced, Pauley threatened to break her $1.2 million Today contract two years early, to which NBC responded with the offer of Pauley's own prime-time magazine show. Despite that she had prevailed in a long, hard-nosed battle, and achieved a notable appointment, the media cast Pauley as a spurned wife, to the mistress Norville. Nevertheless, Pauley departed gracefully with a sincere, on-air good-bye to Norville, leaving the show's ratings to tumble 22% during sweeps week, and ultimately losing its number one spot to Good Morning America.

Following this media soap opera, Pauley herself became the news item of the day, appearing on talk shows, featured in magazines and on Life magazine's cover which proclaimed: "How Jane Pauley Got What She Wanted: Time for Her Kids, Prime Time for Herself." Pauley became Deputy Anchor to Tom Brokaw on the NBC Nightly News, and in 1989, her magazine pilot, Changes, received the highest ratings in its prime time slot. Her subsequent 1991 Real Life with Jane Pauley, featuring human interest reports for her traditional audience, aired five successful summer segments. In pursuit of a broader audience, the magazine was revamped in 1992 as Dateline NBC, adding investigative reporting, and reporter Stone Philips aboard as co-host. Dateline suffered a huge press attack on its ethics when it was discovered that producers staged the explosion of a General Motors truck for an auto safety report; viewers, however, stayed tuned, and by 1995 Dateline was a consistent ratings winner.

By calling NBC's bluff, Pauley was catapulted to the ranks of other women investigative TV reporters Maria Shriver, Connie Chung, and Diane Sawyer. Nevertheless, Pauley continues to be framed by the mass media and NBC as the maternal, baby-boom, career heroine of TV news fame.

-Paula Gardner


Jane Pauley

Photo courtesy of Jane Pauley

JANE PAULEY. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A., 31 October 1950. Educated at Indiana University, B.A. in political science 1971. Married: Gary Trudeau (Doonesbury cartoonist); three children. Began career as TV reporter, WISH-TV, Indianapolis, 1972-75; various positions as reporter and anchor with NBC News programs since 1975. Honorary degree: D. Journalism, DePauw University, 1978.

TELEVISION

1976-     NBC News (correspondent)
1976-90 The Today Show (correspondent)
1980-82 NBC Nightly News (reporter/principal writer)
1982-83 Early Today (co-anchor)
1990-    NBC Nightly News (substitute anchor)
1990-91 Real Life with Jane Pauley (principal              correspondent)
1992-    Dateline NBC (co-host)

PUBLICATION

"Defending Dateline." The Quill (Chicago), November-December 1994.

FURTHER READING

Geimann, Steve. "Pauley Seeds Project: Task Force's Goal to Help Education." The Quill (Chicago), March 1995.

Henry, William A., III. "Will NBC Make Jane an Anchor?" Time (New York), 18 June 1990.

Hoban, Phoebe. "The Loved One (Jane Pauley)" (interview). New York (New York), 23 July 1990.

"Morning Becomes Pauley." Broadcasting (Washington, D.C.), 2 June 1986.

Waters, Harry F. "If It Ain't Broke, Break It." Newsweek (New York), 26 March 1990.

Zoglin, Richard. "Surviving Nicely, Thanks: When She Thought NBC Wanted Her Out, Jane Pauley Prepared to Go Quietly, But the Public Uproar Provided Revenge She Is too Ladylike to Savor." Time (New York), 20 August 1990.