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Sneak Previews of Forthcoming Books of Special Interest to Southern Californians : Going West

<i> From "The Imperfect Mirror: Inside Stories of Television Newswomen," by Daniel Paisner, to be published this month by William Morrow & Co. Connie Chung was co-anchor for KNXT-TV from 1976 to 1983. </i>

‘So Connie Chung disappeared to Los Angeles.’ ‘

IN 1976, AFTER covering McGovern and Watergate for the CBS News Washington bureau, Connie Chung decided that living and working in one city her entire life (save for a two-year stint in Houston during junior high school while her father was assigned there) was not a good thing. Coinciding with her thinking was an offer from CBS-owned-and-operated station KNXT-TV.

“We talked about it,” Chung says, “and I thought, ‘Now, why would I want to do that? Here I am at the creme-de-la-creme network, which it really was at that time. Why in the world would I want to leave?’ And then I thought, ‘Well, you know, I’m 29 years old--maybe I should live in another city for a while. Maybe it would be good for me.’ I felt that I was still kind of suffering from the post-Watergate syndrome. So I thought, ‘Head west. Go to California.’

“I’ve never been the pick-up-and-leave sort of person,” she says. “I can’t believe that I did it, actually. The funny thing is that what they offered me to stay was anchoring the ‘CBS Morning News.’ At that time, I’d substituted a lot at the ‘Morning News,’ but I didn’t think that was a particularly great place to go, because, at that time, when people anchored the ‘CBS Morning News’ and then returned to regular reporting, their colleagues wondered where they’d been. They thought they had disappeared off the face of the Earth.”

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So Chung disappeared to the West Coast, making what many in the television-news industry would consider a backward career move, to anchor local news, albeit in the No. 2 market in the country. She didn’t want her friends in Washington to think that she “went Hollywood,” so she threw herself into her work. She anchored the 11 o’clock news and the early 6 o’clock broadcast. Eventually she added the 4:30 newscast, in addition to the Pacific Coast news digest for CBS. She also reported, she says, because she “didn’t want to be held hostage at the anchor desk.”

Before too long, though, Chung looked up from her grueling schedule and began to feel she was missing something: “Somehow I felt that I was three hours behind, even though it was local news and it was on time for Los Angeles. It’s just that things were happening around the country and I wouldn’t know about them. I was still asleep in the morning. Also, I was getting tired of the murders, fires, floods--that kind of thing,” she says. “I wanted to cover big fires, big floods.”

The decision to move back East was motivated also by the chance at a lasting relationship with the man to whom she is now married, Maury Povich, of “Current Affair.” Theirs had always been a commuter relationship. “We hadn’t planned to get married,” Chung says, “but maybe we were thinking we would give it a chance if we were at least on the same coast.”

By the time her second three-year contract was due to expire, in 1983, Chung had sent out feelers to all three networks. Among the people she talked to was Bill Small, her former boss at the CBS News Washington bureau, who was then with NBC News. He offered her a job anchoring the network’s new early-morning newscast, “NBC News at Sunrise.” She cut short her commitments to CBS and returned east to NBC in New York.

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“I’m torn between anchoring and reporting,” she says. Currently she anchors the “NBC Nightly News” on Saturdays and serves as one of the two principal substitutes for Tom Brokaw on the weeknight broadcasts. Two or three times a week she anchors “NBC News Digest.” And her week is filled with reporting assignments for various NBC reports. “Right now,” she says, “I have the best of both worlds.”

Copyright 1989 by Daniel Paisner.


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