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Walter Cronkite presented the annual award in his name Monday to award-winning television journalist Jane Pauley.
Pauley accepted the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism before a crowd of nearly 1,100 newsmakers, journalists, faculty and students at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.
Pauley is the 25th recipient of the award, given by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
ASU Executive Vice President and Provost Betty Capaldi introduced Pauley by saying she is “one of the most popular and influential television journalists of our time.”
“Jane Pauley’s unique reporting style blends in-depth interviewing skills with a very real care and compassion for people and the important issues she has covered over the span of four decades,” Capaldi said.
Pauley was the popular anchor of NBC’s “The Today Show,” founding co-host of “Dateline NBC” and anchor of the weekend edition of the “NBC Nightly News.”
Her journalism career began as a TV reporter in Indianapolis in 1972. She then was tapped to be the first female TV news anchor at WMAQ in Chicago, and after just one year, got the call to move to NBC in New York.
In her remarks, Pauley joked that it was her youth, gender and hair that got her the job. “I had the trifecta,” she said.
Television stations were being pressured to hire women, and the United States was in the midst of a youth movement, she said. When she tried out for “The Today Show,” she was up against journalists who were older and much more experienced. Pauley was just 25.
“Against all odds and all logic, I won,” she said. “I still thought of myself as an aspiring journalist.”
Years later, with dozens of awards, her own television show and a book behind her, Pauley said that while she had learned to become a journalist, she was “still no Walter Cronkite.”
Pauley’s remarks were preceded by a video featuring some of her memorable news pieces, interviews and congratulations from last year’s Cronkite award winner and former colleague Tom Brokaw. The video, narrated by Cronkite, was produced by Cronkite student Meigan Stack along with Cronkite staff Jim Rush, Brian Snyder and Jim Dove.
Pauley urged students to resist the temptation to cut corners. She likened some decisions being made in journalism today to a baseball team that, to increase the number of runs, decides to remove third base.
She also told students that her success was largely due to “dynamic forces” beyond her control. She said it would likely be the same for them.
“All of you will be making it up as you go along,” she said, “because the past no longer applies and the future hasn’t been invented yet.”