The Women for OSU annual symposium is a unique opportunity to gain valuable knowledge about philanthropic decision making and leadership. Women for OSU celebrates members of the OSU family who display leadership in philanthropy by naming the Philanthropist of the Year and awarding scholarships to outstanding OSU students.
Since 1995, veteran journalist Deborah Norville has been anchor of “Inside Edition,” the nation’s top-rated syndicated newsmagazine. A two-time Emmy© Award winner, Norville is the longest serving anchor on American television and was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 2016.
Norville is the author of several books, including “Thank You Power: Making the SCIENCE of Gratitude Work For YOU,” which brought together the growing body of academic research proving the benefits of gratitude. The book was published in more than a dozen languages and was named a New York Times Best-Seller. She also authored “The Power of Respect: Benefit From the Most Forgotten Element of Success,” popular children’s books, a book of knitting patterns, and has contributed to several volumes in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.
As anchor of “Inside Edition,” Norville broadcasted from Washington DC hours after the terror attacks of September 11th, was in Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, anchored “Inside Edition’s” coverage of the funeral of President Ronald Reagan and the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She made headlines for her week of groundbreaking reports as an inmate from a North Carolina penal institution known as the “toughest jail in America.” The story won Norville two national awards for reporting excellence. She has regularly been on the red carpet for Hollywood’s star-studded events, including the Oscars and the Emmy Awards.
Norville’s reporting career began while she was a student at the University of Georgia. After graduating summa cum laude First Honor Graduate from UGA, she was named weekend anchor at WAGA-TV. In 1982, she joined WMAQ-TV in Chicago as reporter and then later anchor. In 1987, she joined NBC News as anchor of “NBC News at Sunrise,” where ratings jumped 40% her first three months in that position. Norville was later named news anchor and then co-host of NBC’s “Today” program. She joined CBS News in 1993 as a correspondent and later anchor for such programs as “Street Stories,” “48 Hours,” and the “CBS Evening News.” She has also hosted “Deborah Norville Tonight” on MSNBC.
Norville is active in a number of charities. She has been National Celebrity Spokesperson for the Mother’s March of Dimes, a director for Girl Scout Council of Greater New York, a director for the Broadcasters Foundation of America, a member of the Women’s Committee of the Central Park and on the Steering Committee for the Rita Hayworth (Alzheimer’s) Gala. Norville speaks with candor and humor about dealing with life’s curves and juggling a career and motherhood. She is married to Karl Wellner and is a mother of three.
We had a chance to talk with Deborah Norville about her career, her passions and what inspires her. Her keynote address promises to be a good one. We hope you can join us at the 2024 Symposium.
Question: Share with us how and why gratitude became an important part of your life.
I have always been a grateful person. Even as a child, I always managed to find the blessing or silver lining in what might otherwise have been a difficult situation. When my mother died when I was 20, after years of serious illness, I was able to be grateful she was no longer in pain. My interest in the science of gratitude really began during a period when I was bored at work, and I decided to spend some of my time exploring a hunch I had always had which was, “my life always seemed to go better when I focused on what was working, rather than fixating on what went wrong.” The result of those explorations was my best selling book, “Thank You Power.”
Question: What is gratitude journaling and how has it transformed you?
Keeping a gratitude journal is something I started doing after reading one peer reviewed academic paper. It quantified the many positive outcomes for those who took note of daily events they considered blessings. How you keep a journal is entirely a personal decision. Some people write extensively. I tend to just jot a couple notes down that remind me of the moment I am chronicling. There is, however, a decided benefit to actually writing the moments down even if you later shred or burn the paper on which it’s written. Researchers at SMU found that those who write for 15 minutes or so on a daily basis had (among other things) higher immune response, better health outcomes, etc.
Question: You are active in non-profit work with various charities. How can the practice of gratitude inspire us to be better philanthropists?
Grateful people are more positive. Grateful people find more in their world about which they can feel good. The studies show that people who score high on gratitude assessments tend to be more pro-social. That means they naturally do more for others. Therefore, it follows that a person imbued with gratitude would be more likely to participate in philanthropic activities than someone who doesn’t score well on that measure.
Oftentimes, people get involved in philanthropy as a way to give back and to repay the blessings they perceive in their own lives. Think about it: the university's top benefactors are often people who feel the university gave them the tools and opportunity for a life of success. Anyone who gives money usually feels it’s repayment for value they feel they received - no matter what the level of giving.
Question: How have you seen gratitude play out in some of the stories you have covered?
There is not a week that goes by that we don’t have a story on “Inside Edition” in which we are witnessing the reunion of someone who extended themselves on behalf of someone else. The firefighter who ran through flames to rescue the child trapped in the house. The 911 operator who talked to a frightened child as police rush to the home where there’s an intruder. The recipient of a lifesaving organ donation and the family whose deceased loved one provided the gift of life. These stories are always a delight to report because they reinforce so many positive truths: that we are all in this together, that one person can make an enormous impact, that good people exist in a world filled with challenges. These kinds of stories are incredibly important to tell as they remind us of the power of positivity.
Question: How can being philanthropic unleash thank you power?
First, there are many ways to be philanthropic. Most people would initially think it means writing a big check. Arranging the flowers at church is philanthropy. Delivering meals to shut-ins is philanthropy. The other day a very nice lady who was in line at the deli before me insisted I go first. I said “no, you were here first,” but she insisted I pay before her. So I did and I paid for her food, too. She was stunned. I said, “You were a very nice person to let me go first and it’s important that niceness be rewarded.” She was of course happy, but I got the greater benefit. It made me feel good to do something nice for a total stranger. That feel-good feeling (it’s called eudamonia) stayed with me all day. That’s what philanthropy does. When you are giving and you are connected to the cause or person to whom you are contributing, you receive so many blessings. The goodwill you are extending boomerangs back to you.
Question: Why do you think “Inside Edition” has remained on air for more than 35 years in an ever-changing news media industry?
“Inside Edition” is still here because we are constantly changing. As the audience has evolved, so has the show. In its early days, the pieces were longer and there were fewer of them. Today, the audience has a shorter attention span and is quicker to change the channel. We have to do stories that capture the imagination of the viewer and deliver quickly, and then move on to the next story. More importantly, we have to leave the viewer feeling that the 30 minutes they just spent with us was worth it and was a meaningful investment of their time. To me, that means they need to have seen something that inspired, motivated, educated them — ideally all three in a single program. If we do that, then they will come back the next day.
I also think my presence on the show for as long as I have been there (coming up on 29 years!) is also a factor in the show’s success. In a world where it seems everything is constantly changing, there is something somewhat reassuring to see that lady you’ve known forever on the television who is sharing stories in a way that you have become comfortable with.
Question: You are the longest serving news anchor in American television. Share with us the positive changes the industry has experienced in that time that have benefited not only women journalists but all females.
We ALL are beneficiaries of the “Me Too” movement. For too many years, women were forced into silence, grimacing when sexist jokes were made, pretending not to hear when lewd comments were directed at them, uncomfortably squirming out of reach when a male superior got “handsy.” That we even have a word “handsy” that people know is ridiculous. But it was that way for decades. We know that what begins with the crass remark and wandering hand can (but not always) devolve into sexual assault. Too many women endured that also, silently.
What has changed, not just in my industry, but in society is that it is okay for women — and any group that is considered marginalized — to demand and insist upon respect. (And yes, I wrote a book on that, too!) Respect is the grease that allows society to function smoothly. As the subtitle of my book “Power of Respect” rightly puts it, respect is the “most forgotten element of success.” The cost of disrespect can be criminal charges, litigation, disengagement among workers. It’s been estimated that toxic workplace culture costs U.S. employers $50 billion a year! Contrast that with the “cost” of treating employees and co-workers with dignity, which is absolutely nothing.
A big change over the course of my working life has been that when women find their voice and have the courage to use it — amazing things happen!
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