Standing on the Shoulders of Giantesses
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
When Katie Couric welcomes viewers aboard for her maiden voyage on the “CBS Evening News” tonight, she will be the first woman to ever anchor a nightly network news program. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t standing on the shoulders of giants. Here are some of the television trailblazers who have helped lead Ms. Couric to the top of network news.
Nancy Dickerson: The first woman to have her own daily network news program, Ms. Dickerson, who died in 1997, reported and produced her own documentaries throughout the 1970s and 80s. The winner of a Peabody award for her account of the Watergate scandal, Ms. Dickerson is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Barbara Walters: Ms. Walters cut her teeth as a reporter and co-host for “Today” as well, so there’s hope for Katie Couric yet. In the mid-1970s, before she joined “20/20,” Ms. Walters had a two-year gig as the first female co-anchor for a network news program at ABC, where she endured on-air scowls from co-host Harry Reasoner. She’s interviewed every American president since Nixon, but her biggest scoop was an exclusive with Monica Lewinsky.
Jane Curtin: Dan Aykroyd may have called her an “ignorant slut” every week, but Jane Curtin held her own behind the desk of New York’s most notorious boy’s club at Saturday Night Live from 1976–80. Two decades later, a survey by the Pew Research Center found that 9% of Americans regularly learn something from late night comedy shows, compared to 10% for news magazines, meaning Ms. Curtin was at the forefront of a news revolution.
Diane Sawyer: Ms. Sawyer got into broadcasting as a weather girl in Kentucky, but worked her way up to being the first female correspondent for CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Before she was a journalist, she served as a press aide for the Nixon administration, which led some people to speculate that she was the Watergate informant “Deep Throat.”
Connie Chung: In her heyday in the early 1990s, Ms. Chung was dubbed “Best Interviewer” in a U.S. News and World Report survey. She got Newt Gingrich’s mother to admit that Newt called Hillary Clinton a choice five-letter word. Since the comment was whispered “between you and me,” many interpreted it to be off the record. Still, it made for great television — better, at least, than what husband Maury Povich has offered over the years.
Linda Cohn: Since joining ESPN’s SportsCenter in 1992, Ms. Cohn has delivered the nation its nightly sports news with humor and gusto. Before co-anchoring SportsCenter, she was the first full-time female sports anchor in America, helming ABC’s radio sports news show. Working in a male-dominated industry is no sweat for her, though; in high school, she played eight games of hockey on the boys’ squad.
Elizabeth Vargas: The first woman to anchor an evening newscast since Connie Chung, Ms. Vargas was theoretically the first ever female solo anchor of evening news. After her ABC “World News Tonight” co-host, Bob Woodruff, was severely injured in Iraq in January, Ms. Vargas anchored much of the subsequent broadcasts alone.