Deborah Norville, Host, Inside Edition

Deborah Norville Signs Book For Diana Dion

Deborah Norville began her career in television while a student at the University of Georgia, as a reporter, and later as an anchor at WGA TV in Atlanta. In 1987 she made her move to New York as NBC’s anchor of News at Sunrise and co‑host of the Today show. She is the author of several books, including two children’s books, and has most recently written Thank You Power, whose positive and hopeful message has received rave reviews. Following are excerpts of her talk at a special Spouses’ Brunch at the 25th Anniversary Celebration Conference.
I was incredibly fortunate to start in Atlanta, because my only ambition was to end up in Atlanta, because it was a very big market and continues to be an important market in television. The career continued on. Atlanta, Chicago — I was in Chicago when the Tylenol killings were going on, which is pretty interesting. And then from Chicago I went to New York. I came to New York, and it all seemed like a really good idea at the time. I did NBC News at Sunrise, and I remember getting an email about 3:00 in the morning from Jane Pauley saying, "Aside from the headache and throwing up part, can you be me today?" And that was kind of the first notice I got when I was going to be on the Today show. And it was an incredible time to work in the national media. The Berlin Wall was coming down; communism was disintegrating before our very eyes. Who can forget that incredible banner that was held in Dresden, Germany, that said, "Fifty years on the road to nowhere." And to be reporting the story of the resurgence of democracy around Eastern Europe and the end of communism as a ruling force in the Soviet Union was truly, truly incredible. And yet at the same time, things were happening behind the scenes for me that I couldn't understand. I could make sense of democracy, I could make sense of nuclear throw weights, but I couldn't make sense of the political war that was being waged at my expense.
Some of you may remember, I was the hot young thing that replaced Jane Pauley. Ratings went up 40 percent on NBC Sunrise when I came on. That's the kind of stuff bosses notice. So with that kind of in the background, the bosses at NBC said, "You know, Jane Pauley has asked to come off the show. Let's put Deborah Norville in." But the first part of that sentence was never shared with anyone. NBC and Jane never revealed to the public that she had asked to be relieved of her early‑morning duties that she had been doing for the previous 13 years, and when I was assigned to first come on the news as the Ann Curry role and then later as the co‑anchor, none of that was ever revealed, but none of us really thought anything about it.
I was promoted to be the news reader, and by the end of the first week, there was a story in USA Today that said, "Watch out, Jane Pauley. Deborah Norville looks very comfortable." Well, of course I was comfortable. Jane and Bryant were friends of mine, they were at my wedding, we'd had a lot of great fun together, and I was only on the program because they had given their blessing. So we didn't pay any attention to that.
But the stories continued. I went to my agent, and I said, "This is ridiculous. I've got to respond to this." He said, "Deb, they put a gag order on you. If you respond to the press, you have deliberately breached an order, and they could fire you for breach of contract. And you will not collect a nickel on your salary." I was stuck. And it was so hopeless and I felt so alone, and yet I got up every day and I went to work at 4:00 in the morning, and I did my interviews and I won an Emmy. So it wasn't that I was doing a bad job. I got an Emmy award while all this garbage was going on. But, boy, it wasn't easy.
But I knew that God had a purpose. I didn't know what that purpose was, but the Bible tells us to have faith and it will be revealed to us, and I could only have faith that somehow in this outrageously public trial that I was going through that there was some higher purpose, some good to come from it, and that if I could only be patient, it would be revealed to me, because every crisis I'd had prior to that I could see God's hand and I could see God's purpose.
I issued a statement that said I was resigning my position, that I was going to stay home with my child, but then I had a moment, and I said, "You know what, I am never going to let them," defined as broadcast executives, "have this kind of control over me again."   And that was the first step to me getting back on track. And I realized that who I am had become totally wrapped up in what I did, and it is a failing that most of us at some point in our lives fall prey to. Who I am was not the lady working on television. That was what I did, certainly not what I'm going to be doing. And I had to redefine my own definition of self, and I commend this exercise to every one of you.
So I started honing back in as I got good at getting dressed and putting on my makeup on who I was, and I realized I had some unfinished business in television. And I got back into the television business. While I've been chagrinned to see more attention paid on the misadventures of the Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans of the world, I'm thrilled to see that while it took an economic crisis like we're going through right now, the media is finally paying attention to what really matters and giving the information that we as citizens need.
I had a hunch that my life went better when I focused on what was working as opposed to fixating on what goes wrong, and we've all got stuff that goes wrong, and I thought, yeah, but it just seems that way because you want it to be, the placebo effect. So I started diving into the research, and I had one question I wanted to answer, and that was, has anybody reputable actually quantified that there are benefits that come from focusing on what works? And I started looking and found studies that proved absolutely there are, and it was such a gas when I found it.
When you focus on what's working — and I want each of you to think about a moment in the last week or so that when you think about that you just go, whoa, that's really cool. And when you think about that, now consider this. You know how good you feel. We all know that feel‑good feeling. Well, what's happening is that feel‑good feeling is most importantly activating this part of your brain. This is where your dopamine receptors are. And in my research, what I learned was that when you activate the dopamine receptors, you have also excited the same part of your brain as where strategic thinking, reasoning and logic, cognitive associations. It all is right here. So when you focus on your blessings, when you take a moment out of every day to just jot down what's working for you, you have actually started an incredibly powerful process that I think is particularly vital during challenging times like these where you are smarter, you're a better decision maker, you can come up with strategies that will be more effective, and you will think more clearly. And heaven knows we all can use that.
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