Veteran NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell L.H.D. ’03 recently wrote about Judy Woodruff L.H.D.’07, co-anchor of PBS “NewsHour.” Both women served as Commencement speakers at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Mitchell, who provided the HWS Commencement address in 2003, was asked to submit an essay as part of Politico’s “Women Rule: A look at women taking charge” series.
Mitchell writes, “When asked for an example of how ‘Women Rule,’ Judy immediately came to mind. She is a broadcast pioneer, who, through hard work and persistence, broke down barriers for the rest of us, whether on the White House beat, the campaign trail or behind the anchor desk. And despite her extraordinary success on the national stage, she remains rooted in her hometown values. When young women ask me how it’s possible to have it all, I still don’t have a good answer. But I point to Judy Woodruff as the best example of a woman of great character who has succeeded in work and, more importantly, in life.”
Now the host of MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, Mitchell has been the chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News since 1994; she previously served as chief White House correspondent and chief congressional correspondent for NBC News. On her program during the 2000 Presidential election, Mitchell interviewed newsmakers both in Washington, D.C. and on the campaign trail, and the broadcast featured NBC News correspondents and journalists from MSNBC’s alliances including: Newsweek, The Washington Post, The National Journal, Hotline and MSNBC.com. In addition, Mitchell was the lead NBC News correspondent covering the New York State senate race between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rick Lazio.
In 2005, Mitchell published a book titled “Talking Back… to Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels” which chronicled her work as a journalist. She earned a B.A. in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania.
Woodruff currently serves as co-anchor of PBS “NewsHour” with Gwen Ifill L.H.D.’01, another HWS Commencement speaker. The two comprise the first female co-anchor team of a network broadcast. Woodruff graduated from Duke University with a political science degree and has an extensive career spanning three major television news networks. From 1977 to 1982, Woodruff was a White House correspondent for NBC. She then moved on to serve as a chief Washington correspondent for The MacNeil/Lehrer “NewsHour” from 1983 to 1993. Woodruff also anchored “Frontline with Judy Woodruff,” an award-winning weekly documentary series on PBS.
She is the recipient of the Cine Lifetime Achievement award, a Duke Distinguished Alumni Award, the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast/Television, and the University of Southern California Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.
The full article by Mitchell and featuring Woodruff follows.
WOMEN RULE: A look at women taking charge
An unflappable anchor with a huge heart
Andrea Mitchell • October 2, 2013
The following essay is part of a series in which dozens of women will reveal what women they most admire. The series is part of “Women Rule,” a unique effort this fall by POLITICO, Google and The Tory Burch Foundation exploring how women are leading change in politics, policy and their communities. See more essays here.
To millions of viewers, Judy Woodruff is the unflappable co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” an award-winning journalist who has for decades covered the news reliably and with distinction. The Judy Woodruff that I have known for 35 years is also an extraordinary mother, wife, daughter, public citizen and friend.
Judy was one of the original “boys on the bus,” riding the 1976 presidential campaign of a Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter all the way to the White House. Her coverage for NBC gave her national exposure and resulted in her first big assignment – NBC White House correspondent in January 1977. Since then, she has parachuted to living rooms as a skilled debate moderator, a White House correspondent, the host of national political shows – an indisputably stout portfolio of professional triumphs.
But there is more to Judy than the consummate professional we see on television. When we first met, I was a newcomer to NBC’s Washington bureau. She was the White House correspondent, covering President Jimmy Carter. Women were trying to blaze a trail in television journalism, with mixed results. Print journalists didn’t think television news mattered. And in particular, men in print and broadcast media refused to take women journalists seriously. Judy was one of a handful of pioneers who proved them wrong. It was also a time when it was all too easy to adopt an “every woman for herself” attitude and avoid lending a hand to those who followed. Judy was never that woman. She believed that the more of us who succeeded, the better for all.
For example, in 1981, Judy was the television network pool correspondent at the Washington Hilton the day President Ronald Reagan was shot – the first to get on the air and then report nonstop from the White House during those days of crisis. She was at the top of her game. But days later, I stumbled badly during a live report on the “Today” show. I was assigned to stand by while John Hinckley was being transferred from a helicopter to a motorcade en route to his arraignment for the assassination attempt. Hinckley was barely visible to the cameraman looking through a long-distance lens. I couldn’t see anything. Nonetheless, when the anchorman turned to me for a live shot and asked what I could see from my vantage point, I went blank. My poor performance got me banished from future broadcasts – and transferred to NBC radio. But Judy, along with her wonderful White House partner, the late John Palmer, proposed that I join them on the White House beat, filing for radio. They then schemed to find stories I could do for television in order to rebuild my career.
In later years, Judy has been a tireless advocate for countless women’s organizations, as well as one of the founders of the International Women’s Media Foundation – mentoring and celebrating the courage of female journalists from around the world.
She has always been able to do more than most of us, and with grace. She is the woman who reported from the White House for “NBC Nightly News” one evening, gave birth that night and was celebrated with her firstborn, Jeffrey, on the “Today” show the next morning. In fact, behind that composed presence on television is a woman of incredible strength. Her personal life has been the triumph of determination over heartbreak. Jeffrey was born with a mild case of spina bifida. It was difficult, but with dedication and support from Judy and her husband, Al Hunt, Jeffrey spent his early teens skiing, swimming and attending rigorous schools. But when he was 16, this promising young man required surgery related to his condition that left him brain damaged and severely disabled. Judy and Al became tireless advocates for other families finding their way through the challenges of raising a child with spina bifida and its neurological side effects. Jeffrey was also, with their constant encouragement, able to graduate from college and live independently in a special community.
Over the years, the Woodruff-Hunts have raised tens of millions of dollars for research, helping thousands of families with invaluable advice and networking. I vividly remember dropping off something at their home one night to discover Judy busy counseling a new mom on what to expect as her infant grew older. After the grateful mother left, reassured, I learned that she was not a close friend, just someone needing a shoulder and some experienced advice.
Judy is equally dedicated to the needs of other adoptive parents, sharing the joys of parenting her daughter, Lauren. Along with Al, the three Hunt children – Jeffrey, Benjamin and Lauren – are the center of Judy’s universe. Yet she is still the best-sourced, most-connected political correspondent, now half of a groundbreaking, all-woman partnership with another veteran newswoman, Gwen Ifill.
When asked for an example of how “Women Rule,” Judy immediately came to mind. She is a broadcast pioneer, who, through hard work and persistence, broke down barriers for the rest of us, whether on the White House beat, the campaign trail or behind the anchor desk. And despite her extraordinary success on the national stage, she remains rooted in her hometown values. When young women ask me how it’s possible to have it all, I still don’t have a good answer. But I point to Judy Woodruff as the best example of a woman of great character who has succeeded in work and, more importantly, in life.