She is a trailblazer. She is a household name in television news. She’s received numerous accolades, including three Emmy Awards and is the recipient of a George Foster Peabody Award.
Now Connie Chung is an inductee into The Asian Hall of Fame. “I can’t tell you how honored I am. It really means even more to be honored by your own people because we all know and understand each other,” Chung said.
The 69-year-old veteran newswoman almost didn’t go into journalism. Like with many college students, Chung couldn’t settle on a major. A summer internship between her junior and senior year changed her future. Chung interned with a congressman at Capitol Hill who was a former newspaper reporter. He introduced Chung to writing. “My writing I thought was okay,” Chung said. “In print journalism that’s all you have and I had an eye for the visual.”
This was in the late ’60s where television news was still in its infancy stage. According to Chung, she “thought about trying television because it had only growth in its future.”
Before graduating from the University of Maryland, Chung went to the local TV stations in her hometown of Washington D.C., looking for a position in the newsroom. She landed one at WTTG-TV Metromedia (now FOX) in 1969 where she worked as a copy person, then as a news writer, and later as a news reporter.
Toward the early ’70s, Chung recalls the women and Asian movement to be strong. She happened to be at the right place, at the right time. Chung said: “I think there was a pressure on all the networks to hire women and a pressure to hire minorities. I happen to be a double minority, a woman and Chinese.”
Chung joined CBS news in 1971 as a national correspondent for the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, the same show where Chung and her family found themselves around the television set to watch Cronkite deliver the news. Now, Chung would be working for her idol. “I wanted to be Walter Cronkite. He was my hero. He was my mentor,” she said.
Chung’s ultimate dream job was to sit behind the same desk where Cronkite gave the top national stories. It would be 24 years after her first big break in television news before Chung earned that opportunity. Chung would experience unchartered territory as a woman and minority in a field dominated by men. “I think all the women … all of us felt as if we went through a much more difficult hazing period than the men did when we had new male reporters as opposed to female reporters. The Chinese part as I said became [a] detriment,” she said.
Chung worked alongside another female reporter, Lesley Stahl, who became one of her best friends.
Based in Washington D.C., Chung covered politics and world news, including the 1972 Democratic National Convention, the vice presidency of Nelson Rockefeller, and Watergate, which Chung said is the best investigative story she covered. “We were simply trying to find the truth and it was a critical mission because the presidency was at stake. The stakes were high, the necessity for accuracy was paramount.”
In 1976, Chung moved to Los Angeles where she spent seven years as an anchor at KNXT-TV (now KCBS), which is a CBS-owned station.
Then in 1983, she joined NBC news with duties as a correspondent and anchor.
In 1989, she rejoined the CBS news team as anchor and correspondent for various shows.
Finally in 1993, Chung’s dream came true when she co-anchored CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and Connie Chung, making her the first woman to co-anchor the CBS News. “It was thrilling,” Chung said. “I felt mighty wonderful sitting there doing the news every night and being able to go out on various important stories.”
Two years later, CBS fired Chung from that coveted position. Chung remembers Stahl being there for her. “Leslie gave me the most incredible lunch consisting of mostly women saying, ‘We’re with you. We’re behind you. Don’t consider this something to take personally.’ She was just amazing. She has always been an amazing friend.”
It was a Friday when Chung learned she would no longer be sharing the anchor desk with Dan Rather. Even though CBS offered Chung another position within the network, an unexpected phone call changed her life forever, along with her husband and talk show host, Maury Povich. “Remarkably the next morning we got a call that our son was going to be born in a couple of weeks and it was unbelievably serendipitous. It was as if the sky opened up and the heavens blessed us all of a sudden, in a dark moment.”
For the next couple of years, Chung stayed home to take care of her adopted son, Matthew.
Then in 1997, Chung jumped back into television where she joined ABC News as co-anchor and correspondent for the primetime newsmagazine show “20/20.”
In 2002, Chung joined CNN to anchor Connie Chung Tonight.
In 2006, Chung and her husband co-anchored a once-a-week, political program on MSNBC, Weekend with Maury and Connie.
As of now, Chung is on an extended hiatus. As she reflects back on her career, Chung wants to be remembered for being “an accurate, trustworthy, dependable reporter … whose intentions were always sincere.”
The Asian Hall of Fame happens on May 14 at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle. Other honorees include: Olympic Gold Champion Kristi Yamaguchi, Retired Major General in the U.S. Army Antonio Taguba, and martial artist and film actor Bruce Lee (to be represented by the Bruce Lee Foundation). For more information about the Asian Hall of Fame, go to http://www.asianhalloffame.org/. Tickets can be purchased at http://asianhalloffame2016.shindigg.com.