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Essay/Term paper: Who the hell is connie chung?

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Biography

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JMC 101, Section 101

Who the Hell is Connie Chung?

How does one go from being called "America"s sweetheart" to being labeled a

"shameless tabloid whore" (Revah 10)? Connie Chung knows. Co-anchoring the CBS

Evening News with Dan Rather and hosting her own Eye to Eye, she was once on top of

the broadcast journalism world, yet all good things must come to an end. Connie Chung

had a glorious rise and a dramatic fall.

Connie Chung began her career as an assignment editor and on-the-air-reporter at a

local Washington, D.C. television station WTTG. But her big break came in 1971, when

the Federal Communications Commission began pressuring television networks to hire

more minorities and women. Chung applied at CBS"s Washington bureau. She once told

Daniel Paisner, "They had only one woman at CBS News at the time, and I think they

wanted to hire more. So, they hired me, they hired Leslie Stahl, they hired Michelle

Clark, and they hired Sylvia Chase.... In other words, a Chinese woman a black woman, a

nice Jewish girl, and a blond shiska. And so they took care of years of discrimination."

(Moritz 107)

Chung covered George McGovern"s presidential campaign in 1971 and accompanied

Richard Nixon on trips to the Middle East and the Soviet Union in 1972. In 1976, she

became a news anchor for KNXT, the local CBS television station in Los Angeles.

There, her salary went from about $27,000 a year to an estimated $600,000, making

Connie Chung one of the country"s highest-paid local news anchors in 1983. She

received many honors, including an award for best television reporting from the Los

Angeles Press Club in 1977 and Local Emmys in 1978 and 1980. (Moritz 108)

In 1984, Chung, eager to return to reporting national politics, was asked to anchor

NBC News at Sunrise. Of course, she did not let this opportunity pass her by. Chung"s

"new job....also included serving as a political correspondent for the NBC Nightly News

program, anchoring the network"s Saturday evening news, and doing three prime-time,

ninety-second news casts a week" (Moritz 108). Chung"s "status as a rising network star

was reaffirmed when, in November 1983, she made the first of many appearances on the

Today show as a substitute for anchorwoman Jane Pauley" (Moroitz 108).

Connie Chung announced in March 1989 that she would rejoin CBS after her NBC

contract expired in May. She was to anchor a revamped West 57th Street and the CBS

Sunday Night News, and to be one of the main substitute anchors for Dan Rather on the

CBS Evening News. This agreement was worth nearly $1.5 million a year. (Moritz 108)

On September 23, 1989, Saturday Night with Connie Chung made its CBS debut. The

hour-long show, however, was not well received by critics. Chung was criticized for the

show"s shifts from documentation to re-creation--- it was too confusing for the audience.

Her show was "not considered real journalism." (Brunsdon 329)

In 1993, to raise the Evening News ratings, CBS paired Connie Chung with Dan

Rather as his co-anchor. Reuven Frank, who was once a network executive for CBS, said

in his article "Connie Chung at the Circus":

I was repeatedly advised by station managers to improve my news ratings as they

had: "Give them a good-looking girl to look at."....If I"m right, then Chung was

chosen co-anchor because she is an attractive woman....I do not mean to deny that

she is an established journalist with more than 20 years experience. But that is

not why she was picked. Sexism got her the job (21).

This was the first step to Connie Chung"s downfall.

Controversy arose after the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. Rather was

vacationing in Texas at the time, so Chung, unskilled in the ways of field reporting, was

sent to cover the tragedy. During her coverage, Chung managed to offend some

Oklahoma viewers by questioning the city"s fire chief about the community"s ability to

handle the crisis. After only three days, CBS brought Chung back to New York. Steve

Wulf, a reporter for Time magazine made the remark that, "The only good thing to come

out of her assignment was that the proceeds from T shirts asking WHO THE HELL IS

CONNIE CHUNG? went to the disaster relief efforts" (83).

Not long after returning to CBS, Chung hosted her own show, Eye to Eye with

Connie Chung. On this program, Chung interviewed sensational subjects, such as Tonya

Harding. This network news magazine is what ultimately led to her downfall, involving

only a simple five-letter word.

In a television interview with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich"s mother, which

was to be edited into a profile of the incoming Speaker, Connie Chung is said to have

violated all journalistic morals. Under lights and cameras, Mrs. Gingrich was coaxed

into revealing what she thought would stay between Chung and her:

CHUNG: Mrs. Gingrich, what has Newt told you about President Clinton?

MRS. GINGRICH: The only thing that he ever told me is that he"s smart. That

he"s an intelligent man. That he"s not very practical, but he"s intelligent. [Pause]

I can"t tell you what he said about Hillary.

CHUNG: You can"t?


CHUNG: Why don"t you whisper it to me, just between you and me?

MRS. GINGRICH: "She"s a bitch." About the only thing he ever said about

her... (Frank, "Celebrity" 20)

Gingrich was outraged at the way Chung had set his mother up. Had Connie Chung

violated journalistic rules by deceiving the Speaker"s poor old mother? In reporting on

her interview on CBS Evening News the day after, Chung pointed out that during the

interview Mrs. Gingrich frequently "broke into a stage whisper," indicating she knew her

remarks would be used. Many journalistic authorities and critics agreed with the

Speaker, saying that Chung had violated her off-the-record record understanding by using

her quote on-the-record. (Hurley 13) "Though CBS aggressively publicized the

comment, the network was somewhat tepid in her defense" (Wulf 83).

Not long after the Gingrich interview, ratings for both the Evening News and Eye to

Eye began to slump. Research showed that viewers were still angry with Chung over the

Gingrich incident, and the affiliates were demanding immediate action. (Green 52) What

else was there to do but let the anchorwoman go? She was brought in to raise ratings, yet

because of her, they only suffered.

Thus, that was the end of Connie Chung"s career. She had survived on top for what

was a surprisingly long time for television---over 20 years---but it was all too good to be

true. Her warm personality, charm, and good looks could only get her so far. In the end,

she was no longer seen as "America"s sweetheart," who had worked so hard to cover

political campaigns and other important issues. She was merely a "shameless tabloid

whore," who would trick sweet little old ladies into revealing their own personal secrets

just to get a story.

Works Cited

Brunsdon, Charlotte, Julie D"Acci, Lynn Spigel, eds. Feminist television Criticism: A

Reader. Oxford University Press: New York, 1997. 329.

Frank, Reuven. "Celebrity Journalism." The New Leader v78. 30 January 1995. 20-21.

Frank, Reuven. "Connie Chung at the Circus." The New Leader v78. 8-22 May 1995:


Green, Michelle. "Anchor Away." People Weekly v43. 5 June 1995: 50-52.

Hurley, Deborah. "The Whisper Heard Round the World." The Quill (Chicago, Ill.)

v83. March1995: 13.

Murowitz, Charles, ed. Current Biography Yearbook 1989. The H.W. Wilson Company:

New York, 1989, 1990: 106-110.

Revah, Susan. "It"s a Jungle Out There in Cyberspace." American Journalism Review

v17. March 1995: 10-11.

Wulf, Steve. "Weighing Anchors." Time v145.15 May 1995: 83.


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