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Former NBC anchor given Cronkite award

 by Leigh Munsil
 published on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

<b>ITíS ALL YOURS:</b> Walter Cronkite presents Jane Pauley with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at the 2007 Walter Cronkite Luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix Monday.
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Courtney Sargent / THE STATE PRESS
ITíS ALL YOURS: Walter Cronkite presents Jane Pauley with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at the 2007 Walter Cronkite Luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix Monday.
 

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Jane Pauley was honored with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism Monday, but the former "Today" show star insists it's just a title.

"I'm no Walter Cronkite," she said.

Pauley was honored at the 24th Annual Awards Luncheon in the Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom of the Arizona Biltmore Resort.

At age 25, Pauley ascended to anchor of NBC's "Today" show, a move she called, "out of the blue."

"My life went from normal to famous overnight," she said. "If I had sprouted wings, it couldn't have felt any weirder."

Pauley began her broadcast journalism career at the age of 21 as a temporary reporter for WISH-TV in her hometown of Indianapolis, Ind.

After three years there, she became the first female to anchor the evening news in Chicago, where she developed an aversion to reading her own press, Pauley said.

One news outlet said she had the "IQ of a cantaloupe."

A year later, she landed the job of co-anchor on the "Today" show with Tom Brokaw ó last year's recipient of the Cronkite award. During her time at the network, Pauley was also a founding co-host of "Dateline NBC."

In the 1970s there was no shortage of "first woman" stories, Pauley said.

Women started getting hired in newsrooms throughout the nation, partly as a result of Pauley's high-profile success in the industry, she said.

"It was a bold new frontier ó but I knew I was more passenger than pioneer," she said.

Throughout her journalism career, Pauley covered political events, personal stories and even reported from the Great Wall of China.

Pauley covered both the royal wedding and the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

"Princess Diana will be my link to broadcast immortality," Pauley said.

The title of Pauley's memoir, "Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue," alludes to her whirlwind journey from 21-year-old reporter to national news co-anchor as well as her personal struggle with bipolar disorder.

Pauley told the about 100 Cronkite students in attendance that journalism as she knows it is a "relic."

"All of you will be making it up as you go along, because the past no longer applies and the future hasn't been invented yet," she said.

Kristin Gilger, the assistant dean of the Cronkite School, said she remembers watching Pauley on morning television throughout the 1980s.

"I always thought she had a great smile," Gilger said. "She's very personable and real. She's a great role model for women."

Brent Alex, a journalism freshman, said he could identify with Pauley's background, and said it encouraged him to keep applying himself to be a good journalist.

"I thought she was a fantastic speaker," he said.

Pauley ended her speech by asking the students for a favor and took aim at the practice of scrolling breaking news on the bottom of a TV screen.

"As soon as one of you gets in charge, will you please kill that infernal crawl at the bottom of the screen," she said.

Reach the reporter at leigh.munsil@asu.edu



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