Who The Hell Is Connie Chung?

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