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How These Media Stars Got Their Start

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NORAH ODONNELL
"CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell participates in the CBS News and "CBS This Morning" TCA panel on Sunday, July 29, 2012 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP) | AP



By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK, Oct 22 (Reuters) - When Reuters asked some of the nation's finance gurus about their first jobs, we were taken aback by their down-to-earth answers.

Vanguard Group co-founder Jack Bogle? A pinsetter in a bowling alley. Abby Cohen, the famed strategist at Goldman Sachs? A mail sorter at New York's Kennedy Airport.

And so on, from shoeshiners to newspaper delivery boys to beer vendors at baseball games. Even superstars have to start somewhere.

To coincide with the belated September jobs report, we decided to pose the same question to a few of the media personalities who bring you the news every day.

What we discovered: These people may be engaging and authoritative on our TV screens, but their career origins are humble and eclectic.


Norah O'Donnell

Co-host, "CBS This Morning"

First job: TV host in South Korea

"When I was 10 years old, my father was stationed with the military in Seoul, South Korea. At the time in Korea it was required for students in middle school to learn English, and they were looking for people to do language tapes. So they hired me.

"That rolled into doing a TV program for the Korean equivalent of PBS. It was 30 minutes every week, I sat in the middle of a Korean woman and an American guy, and we would do little skits in English and Korean.

"After we taped, I would get an envelope with around $30 in it, and I would go buy Michael Jackson tapes for $1 or polo shirts for $2. I still have those show tapes in a box somewhere, but they will never see the light of day. They exist - and they're very funny."


Pat Kiernan

Morning anchor, NY1 (cable news channel in New York City)

First job: Cotton candy spinner

"This was at the Calgary Stampede back in 1984, and it was my summer job when school let out. Because I didn't know any better, I thought it meant I could go to the Stampede for free, every day! Little did I realize the monotony of standing on your feet for 10 hours a day, serving the same items over and over.

"I also had no idea beforehand that cotton candy is nothing but sugar, plus one mysterious ingredient that keeps all the sugar together. Our other products were snow cones and candy apples, so not a lot of nutritional value there. Very high-margin products, though, and the math was obvious to a young entrepreneurial mind like mine.

"I was making around five bucks an hour, and what I learned is that standing on your feet for so long is brutal, even when you're a fit 16-year-old. At the end of the shift, I always felt it. It was a good reminder to stay in school and get a job that wasn't physical labor."


Judy Woodruff

Co-anchor and managing editor, "PBS NewsHour"

First job: Candy striper

"Candy stripers were volunteers in veterans' hospitals, and they called us that because of the red-and-white-striped aprons you had to put over whatever you were wearing. I volunteered through my Girl Scout troop, because there was a hospital within walking distance of my childhood home in Augusta, Georgia.

"This was in the 1960s, I was in the 9th grade, and I worked in the library shelving books. One summer there was a big heat wave, and I slipped out of my sandals for a minute. The librarian saw me and said, 'Young lady, you are never to be in here without shoes.' She fired me on the spot, and told me to leave.

"I was devastated, because I had to go home and tell my mother what happened. It was a strictly run place, and they were teaching us lessons of responsibility. What I learned is to follow the rules, wherever you are - and to keep your shoes on."


Tavis Smiley

Host, "Tavis Smiley" (PBS) and "The Tavis Smiley Show" (radio)

First job: Laborer

"I was one of 10 kids, so with my parents and my grandmother, we were a 13-person household living in a three-bedroom trailer in Bunker Hill, Indiana. My father was supporting us all on an Air Force officer's salary, which obviously wasn't going to work. So one day he decided to start his own business.

"He called it Smiley & Sons, because I had seven little brothers, and we got custodial contracts around the Air Force base. That's how we were able to survive. Every day I would come home from school, do my homework, have dinner, go to church and then start cleaning buildings at 9 p.m., sometimes until midnight.

"I remember it like it was yesterday. The credit union was the easiest to clean, and the dental office was the hardest. It was horrible for a kid, to be buffing floors and cleaning blinds into the night like that. But my dad didn't accept excuses. He was the hardest-working man I've ever known, and he was doing anything and everything it took to keep his family alive."

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YOUR MONEY-They had to start somewhere: First jobs of media stars