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So What Do You Do, Candy Crowley?

Although she's "grown to love journalism," CNN's Candy Crowley started out with far different plans

By Brian Stelter - February 5, 2007
Candy Candy Crowley began her career as a gopher at WASH-FM in Washington, and has risen all the way to senior political correspondent at CNN. Along the road, she's worked everywhere from UPI and Mutual Broadcasting to the AP and NBC. Not bad for someone who's a writer at heart and only got into the TV business because it "fulfilled the need to have a paycheck." TVNewser's Brian Stelter caught up with Crowley to ask about her career.

Name: Candy Crowley
Position: Senior political correspondent, CNN
Company: Turner
Education: Randolph-Macon Women's College
Hometown: born in Michigan, raised in St. Louis

Did you always want to be a journalist?
I always wanted to be a writer. But the problem with being a writer is, unless you've written your first book, they don't pay you a whole lot to sit at your house and write. So this fulfilled the need to have a paycheck. And since then I've grown to love journalism.

But the first motivation was the motivation to write.
Well I always liked history papers more than I liked English essays. I was always driven toward true things, as opposed to fiction.

How'd you get your foot in the door?
My first job was at WASH-FM when it was a MetroMedia station in Washington. I just worked this minimum wage split shift thing. Basic gopher work, calling around to find out what happened the night before.

I went from there to AP, but I had an interim with UPI for about six minutes. You work with the wires when you're a local station. It's easy to get to know those people. So I had accepted a job at UPI, and then I quickly got a job with AP.

Then I went from AP to Mutual Broadcasting. And then I went from Mutual back to AP. And I had children. Then I went from AP to NBC. And then to CNN.

Is there a lesson in that pattern?
You know how people tell you it's 'right place right time?' It's true. I think there are a lot of talented journalists out there who are probably far better than I am. I just happened to be sitting there when the opening came. There's a lot of that to it. Of course, you have to take advantage of the openings.

When I think back, I think 'wow – that was a stroke of luck.'

Your title is "senior political correspondent." What's your specialty, your niche?
Politics sounds so boring, and I think people roll their eyes when you say 'I cover politics.' So what do I cover? [She pauses and thinks for a moment.]

It's great people-watching. And that's the only way I can really describe it. Sometimes I'll take the 20,000-foot view. Or look at how the '08 people are reacting to the State of the Union. Or what's at stake in a certain bill. I'm always looking at things with an eye to the next election.

Take me through a typical week, if one exists.
There's really not a typical week, which is the best part of it. I love the travel. I love that the '08 election has started so early, because it gets me out and gets me going.

In an election year, there's a lot of being away from home. This is sort of an election year, even though this isn't THE election year. So there's travel several times a month. So in that week, it's airports – Cleveland, Des Moines, Columbus, Nashua.

When I'm home for the week, sometimes there are things coming up that I know will be a story, so there are things I'll work on. Like ahead of the State of the Union –- what's the political dynamic as Bush gives his speech?

Other times the story will come to you – someone will literally run into your office and say something like 'John Kerry's not running in '08.'

And then you try to pick up a little news. You make as many phone calls as you can in the morning to pick up what's out there and generate a little news.

What kind of story do you find most satisfying?
The ones I got. The ones that didn't come and drop in my lap, but that I got. That's a high.

Can you think of an example?
The night of the 2000 election returns. I was standing in very cold, rainy Austin, Texas, and the phone rang for my producer. He said 'What? What? I'm going to hand the phone to her.' It's a very good source in the Bush camp who says, 'Al Gore just called to retract his concession.'

There was this JumboTron behind us, showing news coverage to the crowd. It's just a really high moment, because as I reported the news, I could hear myself echoing in the background and the crowd gasping. It was a double whammy.

What is it about television that attracts you to the medium?
When the TV is done right – when the pictures and the words are working with each other – for impact there's nothing like it. There really isn't. It's such a high when something works well in television, because it can be so powerful.

The beauty of working in print or working in radio is that it's a solo endeavor. In TV it's a team effort.

Would you consider going back to print?
Well we write stories for dot com and do podcasts, integrating our platforms as they say. In the last campaign I blogged for friends and family, which was really fun. I sent all my jokes and snide remarks to my family and friends without that showing up in public. It would be hard to go back, but I could see myself in print again at some point.

Why would it be hard?
Because the medium of TV is so endlessly fascinating to me. Now they've got CNN Pipeline, and it's all coming together in this one big thing. It's fascinating to me to watch this industry progress, and get into all these kind of things that I never would have dreamed of when I was at WASH-FM cleaning carts.

Who do you look up to?
One of my all-time favorites is Tom Brokaw. I think he is terrific. Peter Jennings, same thing. I just thought they were consummate reporters and anchors. In terms of reporters, Lord, I can't start, because there are a lot of them out there that are really good, that are poets in their own light, and are really good reporters.

And you're in that category now, too.
I've never tried to stand out or make a name for myself. I always just wanted to do the story. If you do stand out and make a name for yourself, that's great. But I don't know anybody – well, yeah, I do – most people I know are in this because they love to find things out. They love to report, they love to tell things, they love to relay things to people. I'm consistently startled when people come up to me.

Still?
Yeah, I still am. It's just me walking through the airport. I don't think 'Wow, this is Candy Crowley walking through the airport.' It's hard to see yourself as anything other than the mom or the friend, because that's who you really are.

Brian Stelter is the editor of TVNewser, mediabistro.com's blog that brings readers the "news on the news."



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