Deborah Norville: Wikis


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Norville at the Metropolitan Opera opening in 2008.

Deborah Norville (born August 8, 1958 in Dalton, Georgia) is an American television broadcaster and journalist. A graduate of The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, since 1995 she has been host of the syndicated American television program Inside Edition. She hosted Today on NBC, substitute anchored both the NBC Nightly News, and the weekend CBS Evening News, and was a host and correspondent for two CBS News magazine programs.




NBC years

After serving as singer and an anchor for local television stations first in Atlanta and then Chicago, in 1987, Norville, at age 28, was named anchor of NBC News at Sunrise, the network's early morning newscast which aired just prior to the Today program. Throughout the late 1980s she was seen on Today as a regular substitute for host Bryant Gumbel, co-host Jane Pauley, and news anchor John Palmer.

On September 5, 1989, Norville replaced Palmer at the Today newsdesk and he assumed her previous role on Sunrise. She also began substituting for Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News. Shortly after Norville's appointment as Today's news anchor, the decision was made to feature Norville as an unofficial third host. Whereas Palmer had read the news from a desk separate from where Gumbel and Pauley sat, Norville was seated alongside the program's hosts at the opening and closing of every show. Before long, gossip columns and media observers predicted that NBC would remove Jane Pauley from the program and replace her with Norville in an effort to improve the program's recently declining viewership by young women, the demographic most coveted by morning shows.

As co-host of Today

On October 27, 1989, Jane Pauley announced after 13 years on Today that she would be leaving the program at the end of the year to pursue a prime time news assignment - which would debut on July 17, 1990 as Real Life with Jane Pauley. NBC, as expected, announced that Norville would become co-host. An emotional Norville hugged Pauley on the air after the announcement was made, and many at NBC hoped the negative press generated by Norville's increased presence on the program would end. It did not. Prior to the announcement of Pauley's departure, much of the criticism had focused on Norville's youth and beauty, with many branding her "the other woman" and a "home wrecker," in a reference to what some felt seemed like her intent on "breaking up" the television marriage of Gumbel and Pauley.

Negative press only heightened after the announcement of Pauley's resignation, and Norville was put under a gag order by NBC brass which prevented her from defending herself from the widespread and erroneous reports that she somehow orchestrated her rise on Today. In January 1990, the new anchor team of Bryant Gumbel and Deborah Norville, minus Jane Pauley, debuted with disastrous results. Ratings for the program began to plummet. Critics felt that Gumbel and Norville lacked chemistry and many loyal viewers began turning to rival ABC's Good Morning America (GMA). Whereas Jane Pauley had excelled at being deferential to the aggressive Gumbel, Norville, it was observed, was not by nature a passive person. She thus fit uncomfortably into a role in which her chief duty was to play off of his lead.

By June 1990, NBC devised what it hoped would be solution to the growing unpopularity of the show. Though it had been rumored that Norville would be removed as co-host, NBC announced that she would remain in her position and that Joe Garagiola, former Major League Baseball player, game show host, Major League Baseball on NBC announcer, and Today contributor from 1967-1973, would join Norville as a co-host alongside Bryant Gumbel. Also, CBS newswoman Faith Daniels would become the program's news anchor -- a position which was still unfilled since Norville became co-host. Finally, Katie Couric assumed the role of National Correspondent; Garagiola, Daniels and Couric were added to the show during the June 11, 1990 broadcast.

In September 1990, Norville announced that she and her husband were expecting a child in the following year. It was hoped that motherhood would help soften Norville's image as a too-pretty, too-icy newswoman, but her pregnancy announcement was essentially unnoticed by critics.

Ouster from Today

The changes accomplished nothing in the way of stopping the ratings decline. By the end of 1990, Today, the longtime dominant program, was officially the second place morning show behind GMA, and most of the blame was pinned on Norville. By the outbreak of The Gulf War in 1991, Norville saw her role as co-host continually minimized. Today aired special editions of the program called America at War, with Gumbel anchoring most of the show alone. It was not uncommon for Norville not to even make an appearance until the two-hour show's second half hour. In addition, she was directed not to initiate conversation on the show and only speak when asked a question by Gumbel. Nearing the end of her pregnancy, which became complicated with a condition known as toxemia, Norville left the show for maternity leave in February 1991. It was announced that Katie Couric would substitute co-host during Norville's absence. Ratings for the program rose immediately following Norville's departure and Couric's arrival.

Midway through her maternity leave, Norville was interviewed by People. In the story, she avoided conversation about her recent trouble on Today, and instead focused on her newborn baby boy. She was photographed breastfeeding her son, a seemingly innocuous event, but NBC management was said to be greatly displeased by this, believing the photo to be in poor taste. By April 1991, in light of improved ratings on Today and NBC's displeasure at the People photograph, it was announced that Norville would not return to Today and that Couric had been named the program's co-host. Norville, it was disclosed, would continue to be paid in accordance with her contract, although she would no longer appear on any NBC News programs.

Reborn on radio

Maurice Tunick former Vice-President of Talk Programming for the ABC Radio Networks comments: "With Sally Jessy Raphael's TV show in high gear and the pressures and time commitments needed to keep the show on top Sally asked to be released from her ABC Radio Network contract in late 1990. I was the one who hired Sally and the person who would be responsible for replacing her. Sally agreed to stay through the Summer of 1991 and her replacement would start immediately after Labor Day 1991. The search was on."

"We tried many people while Sally took some days off. Cindy Garvey was a favorite. Dr. Laura Schlesinger who had been a regular sub for Sally for the past five years was very determined to replace her as well as several others."

"Because Sally was an original and the Dear Abby format was created for her, it was determined we would seek someone with national name recognition and with more of a topical news interest than a personal advice persona. About midway into the search I heard the news that Deborah Norville would be leaving The Today Show. She had just given birth to her first child and said she wanted to be home with her child. I went to see her agent, Jim Griffin of the William Morris Agency to ask if she would be interested in replacing Sally on the radio? He reiterated Deborah's desire to stay out of the limelight and be a stay at home Mom. I suggested we could do the show from her home, and in fact identify the show as "Deborah Norville - From Her Home To Yours". He set up a meeting with background. She liked the idea and decided to do it."

"The show was launched in September 1992. The launch itself was perhaps anticlimactic. When the announcement of Deborah hosting a radio show was first made in May 1992, it was met by headlines and reaction around the country. Her short time at The Today Show and the botched transition from Jane Pauley was still very much alive. Deborah and her new radio show were being judged before the show even took to the air."

"The original plan for the show was solid. Deborah was a good interviewer who was able to attract big guests and covered many important stores. Originating from home most nights allowed the listeners to eavesdrop on her life. Guests to her show were often invited to her New York City apartment. It was an interesting, entertaining program hosted by a bright, articulate woman."

"The press on Deborah was never good. It never mentioned her performance on the radio show. It only continued to talk about The Today Show. It made the growth of her show slow. While she never lost any stations that were carrying the show, it was difficult getting new stations, proving it wasn't her performance which was hurting, it was the negative image from television which would continue to haunt her." (Maurice Tunick)

Norville hosted her ABC Radio program for one year.

Return to television

By late 1993, Norville had been hired by CBS News as a correspondent for Street Stories, a prime time newsmagazine hosted by CBS veteran Ed Bradley. Norville was soon tapped to anchor Sunday editions of the CBS Evening News on a rotating basis and also substitute anchored on the weeknight edition of that program. By the summer of 1994, Street Stories had been cancelled and CBS introduced a summer newsmagazine series called America Tonight co-anchored by Norville and newswoman Dana King.

On her new role at CBS and in reference to her appearances on the CBS Evening News, Norville once remarked, "I hope Bryant [Gumbel] was watching."

Syndication success

By 1995, Norville, still a news correspondent for CBS was asked to replace Bill O'Reilly, later of Fox News Channel, as the host of the highly popular syndicated news and entertainment program Inside Edition -- a position she holds today.

Morning show comeback

In the summer of 2002, the beleaguered Early Show on CBS -- a distant rival of NBC's Today and ABC's GMA -- was in a precarious position. The show, which had failed to gain traction since its inception in 1999, was devoid of an anchor team. Former Today host Bryant Gumbel, who had since left NBC to anchor The Early Show, had not renewed his contract with the network. His co-host, Jane Clayson, was still on the show, albeit with an uncertain future. CBS, which owns King World, the syndicator for Inside Edition, hired Norville, still anchoring Inside Edition, to co-host alongside Clayson for a week. Rumors started that Norville would either join or replace Clayson on the program. Neither materialized, however, as Clayson was removed from the program and CBS opted for a multi-anchor concept of which Norville expressed no interest to be a part, and chose to stick with the syndication arm.

Ironically, CBS had reportedly approached Norville in 1999 about co-hosting the program with Gumbel before its launch. This would have been particularly unusual (if not ironic) given their unsuccessful pairing on Today.

Deborah Norville Tonight

In 2004, MSNBC announced that Norville would anchor a prime time interview program on that network while remaining at Inside Edition. A clumsy arrangement was orchestrated in which Norville was prevented from appearing as an anchor for NBC News -- of which MSNBC is a division -- so as not to confuse viewers who identified her with Inside Edition. As a result, if breaking news had developed either during the course of her show or earlier in the day, she was unable to cover the story by speaking with NBC correspondents unless they were featured as guests on the program.

Norville's news broadcasts were not faultless; while at MSNBC in late March 2004, she presented as genuine a satirical article entitled "Study: 58 Percent Of U.S. Exercise Televised" from The Onion, a parody newspaper.

Norville conducted some high profile interviews on the show -- including one with her successor on Today, Katie Couric -- and also addressed some controversial topics including the debate revolving around Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and Mormon polygamy.

During one of the broadcasts on the Passion controversy, Norville disclosed on the air that she was a born-again Christian, having accepted Christ as her savior at age 15. Though Norville's religious identity had been reported previously, it was the first time she had ever made such an announcement on live television.

By February 2005, exhausted from working two jobs and facing flat ratings, Norville announced she would leave MSNBC and continue anchoring the syndicated Inside Edition.


Norville is the host of the online talk show New Way RA to help raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis. The disease contributed to her mother's death.

She also authored the book The Power of Respect: Benefit from the Most Forgotten Element of Success.


  • In 1976, she was named Georgia's Junior Miss, a scholarship pageant for college-bound high school girls.
  • She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism.
  • During her years as a reporter and anchor for a local television station in Atlanta, she dated sports celebrity Harmon Wages, then a local television sports anchor and former running back for the Atlanta Falcons.
  • According to Jeff Foxworthy, she is "America's most courageous anchorwoman."
  • She has twice been awarded an Emmy Award for her television work.
  • Alongside Willard Scott, hosted the 1989 and 1990 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade telecast on NBC.
  • Deborah tried her hand, and voice, at a brief singing career, releasing a music video for the song Gonna Keep on Movin'. She was signed to Junior Vasquez Music.
  • Her tumultuous experiences on The Today Show inspired her to write a book entitled Back on Track: How to Straighten Out Your Life When It Throws You a Curve (Simon & Schuster, 1997). She has also written two children's books, I Don't Want to Sleep Tonight (Golden Books, 1999) and I Can Fly (Golden Books, 2001).
  • She is married to Karl Wellner and has three children.
  • She has been the mistress of ceremonies at the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Fall Gala for the past 8 years.
  • On November 14, 2008, Deborah Norville was on the Fox game show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Norville "dropped out of school" at the $100,000 level, stating, "I may be an Emmy Award winning journalist, and a best selling author, but I am not smarter than a 5th grader."

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
John Palmer
Today Show News Anchor
July 14-December 29, 1989
Succeeded by
Faith Daniels
Preceded by
Jane Pauley
Host of The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel
January 3, 1990–April 4, 1991
Succeeded by
Katie Couric


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