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Alissa Krinsky

So You Think You Can Spell?

Lawmakers and reporters often spar, but now the two sides will square off in a whole different forum.

FNC’s Ed Henry, CBS’s Major Garrett, and MSNBC’s Howard Fineman are among the DC journos participating in The National Press Club’s Centennial Spelling Bee on September 18 in Washington.  Along with colleagues from Politico, The New York Times, and other outlets, the newsers will compete in a spelling smack down against a team of federal legislators, including Sen. Tim Kane (D-VA) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Held sporadically over the past decades, the spelling bee this year is a celebration of the 1913 NPC event, which also pitted members of Congress against the press, and featured President Woodrow Wilson in attendance.

Tickets are available online, with proceeds benefitting the organization’s nonprofit Journalism Institute, which trains communications professionals and provides educational scholarships.

In War Reporting Today ‘Journalists Have Become Targets’

In his new novel, Martin Fletcher addresses what he calls the “universal question: How do you get on with the rest of your life in the face of horrific tragedy?”

It’s a topic the former NBC News Tel Aviv bureau chief explored frequently during his nearly-four decade career with the network, reporting from the globe’s most dangerous hot spots, often meeting interviewees “on the worst day of their lives.”

Fletcher’s fourth book, and second novel, Jacob’s Oath, is due out this fall.  He says readers will “come away full of hope, and belief in the future.” It’s what has stayed with him after a lifetime of covering wars, famine, and other hardships.

Fletcher left full-time reporting nearly four years ago, staying with NBC on a freelance basis. These days he’s less focused on covering danger zones, feeling like he’s used up too many of his nine lives.  ”For how long can you be lucky?”

The Richard Engels of the world, he says, are facing a more complicated Middle East than ever before. ”So many things going on at the same time…it looks like we’re at the beginning of a very long road,” Fletcher says during a phone interview with TVNewser from Israel.

“It’s much more dangerous today than it used to be. And the reason is that journalists have become targets.”

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John Palmer Has Died

Longtime NBC News correspondent and anchor John Palmer has died at the age of 77 after a “short, sudden illness”, the network reported tonight.

Calling Palmer a “dear colleague and friend”, NBC Nightly News weekend anchor Lester Holt described a journalist “many of you welcomed into your living rooms for a good many years…’Been there, done that’ only begins to describe John’s career. There was no one better in the trenches, and as a colleague, no one more liked.”

A Tennessee native, Palmer long served as a foreign correspondent for NBC News before moving over to the White House beat in 1979.  He went on to cover five presidents.  In 1982 he joined the Today show, where for seven years he was news anchor alongside hosts Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel.

The veteran newsman left NBC News in 1990, rejoining the division four years later. In a 2008 interview, Palmer shared with TVNewser that it was Tim Russert who gave him that second chance.

Palmer met his wife Nancy at NBC News, and currently two of his daughters are division journalists.  One of them, Today producer Molly Palmer Cowan, married CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan last year. At the time of their engagement, a delighted Palmer told TVNewser that he and Nancy were “not losing a daughter, just adding another journalist to the family, and a fine one he is!”

Update: The AP is reporting the cause of death as pulmonary fibrosis.

Full statement and bio from NBC News, after the jump… Read more

Erin Burnett Pregnant With First Child

As this TVNewser watched Erin Burnett anchoring last night, we noticed an unusually loosely-fitting ensemble that suggested she might be expecting.

We asked her spokesperson this morning if she was. A few hours later, after Burnett had time to inform her staff, CNN confirmed the news. This is the first child for the “Outfront” anchor and her husband David Rubulotta.The baby is due in November.

The news comes six months after the couple tied the knot in New York.

Scott Pelley: NBC Nightly News ‘Has Only One Problem,’ CBS Evening News ‘is Better’

“When it comes to covering the news, and not wasting the audience’s time,” says Scott Pelley about the nightly network newscasts, “I think there’s one place you can come to…the CBS Evening News. Brian Williams does a terrific news broadcast [on NBC]. It has only one problem, and that is that ours is better.”

Pelley spoke with TVNewser on his second anniversary at the helm of the CBS Evening News, which he began anchoring June 6, 2011. It was the first newscast he’d ever anchored after 38 years in the business.

Although the program remains in last place among the ‘big three’, there has been steady ratings growth during the past two years. For last month’s May sweeps, the broadcast saw +8% total viewership growth versus May of 2012, the strongest trend for any of the nightly news shows.

“Imagine how counter-intuitive that is,” Pelley reflects. “Who would have predicted  that the ‘CBS Evening News’ would add a million viewers over the last few years – we’ve been losing viewers for decades. [But with] so much bad information floating around everywhere, particularly in social media, I think that people are looking for a thirty-minute encapsulation of the most important things that happened in the world, with a brand that they know that they can trust.”

The CBS News brand is important to Pelley, who next year will mark his 25th anniversary with the Tiffany Network.

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‘Today’ Goes Coast-to-Coast, ‘Hoping that the Past is the Past’

“It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen up close.”

That’s Willie Geist‘s assessment of a day of reporting on the aftermath of Monday’s EF5 tornado in Moore, OK. “I think what you can’t convey is the scope of the damage.” Which is why people like Geist go to places like this — to try and describe it for us all.

Late Tuesday, Geist caught a flight to Chicago, where TVNewser caught up with him and his third hour co-host Natalie Morales. With Matt Lauer and Al Roker remaining in Oklahoma, and Savannah Guthrie back in New York, the Chicago remote was a remnant of an interrupted, week-long cross-country trip which began Monday in Hawaii.

Today will close out the week with a live broadcast from the Jersey shore where residents there continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Morales surveyed the Oklahoma devastation via helicopter Tuesday. “It was like a bowling ball, that was a mile-and-a-half wide, rolled through and completely devastated neighborhoods,” she says. “It sort of ties it all together, to talk about the Jersey Shore rebuilding.”

Along with special co-host, Gov. Chris Christie, Lauer, Guthrie, Roker, Morales, and Geist will all be on hand. Morales says the group is feeling “new energy” after a turbulent year in the morning show wars.

“We’re a much stronger team now for that. That’s where our true grit and our character have come through,” she says.

“I’m hoping that the past is the past. We just want to carry on and continue to do what we want to do best, which is, when a big story is breaking, like you saw in Oklahoma, we rally. We’re all there. We’re all about making sure people are getting the stories they want to hear and see.”

TVNewser’s 2013 Guide To Graduation Speakers

As is tradition here at TVNewser, we present to you our sixth annual list of who’s-speaking-where-and-when at America’s colleges and universities (in alphabetical order):

CBS’s Sharyn Alfonsi: University of Mississippi-Meek School of Journalism and New Media (MS), May 11

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (MD), May 23

ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser: University of South Carolina School of Medicine (SC), May 10

FNC’s Shannon Bream: Liberty University (VA), May 11

NBC’s Tom Brokaw: Loyola University New Orleans (LA), May 11

ABC’s Katie Couric: Randolph-Macon College (VA), June 1

ABC’s Josh Elliott: Quinnipiac University-The School of Communications and the School of Health Sciences (CT), May 19

NBC’s Richard Engel: Fordham University (NY), May 18

MSNBC’s Howard Fineman: University of Louisville-Brandeis School of Law (KY), May 11

FNC’s Bill Hemmer: Miami University-Farmer School of Business (OH), May 12

After the jump: Where Lemon, Raddatz, Scarborough, BriWi, and others will be speaking.

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Conan O’Brien to Headline 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner

All hail Team Coco!

Late night talker Conan O’Brien will be the entertainer at this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner, to be held April 27 in Washington.

“Conan is one of television’s most innovative and influential talents and I am absolutely thrilled that he has agreed to be this year’s featured act,” said WHCA President Ed Henry in a statement.

“As social media has changed all aspects of the media business, Conan has embraced this shifting landscape to become a creative force both online as well as in the traditional television model. We are grateful that Conan also will be using that creativity to bring more attention to the WHCA’s commitment to helping needy journalism students.”

Proceeds from the evening – dubbed the “Nerd Prom” – will help fund more than $100,000 in WHCA scholarships.

As is tradition, the President and First Lady once again will be in attendance, with President Obama set to deliver his own set of jokes.

This also marks a return performance for O’Brien, who headlined the 1995 WCHA dinner.

Hoda Kotb on Life ‘Working Out the Way It’s Supposed to’

In a business known for big egos and petty jealousies, Hoda Kotb is a dose of Zen.

Life “is working out the way its supposed to work out,” Kotb tells TVNewser, reflecting on her 15th anniversary with NBC News. Co-anchoring the fourth hour of Today with Kathie Lee Gifford “fits like a puzzle piece, it just clicks…The show is a great place for me, and a happy place.”

It’s a gig she actively sought out. “I was always the one who waited to be noticed in life,” she reflects. But surviving cancer gave her a different perspective.  The same year of her diagnosis – 2007 – she decided to ask management for the fourth-hour job. “And I remember how small it felt, how little and insignificant after what I’d been through. I believe today that if I hadn’t gotten sick…I wouldn’t have had the guts to ask for it.”

The ability to appreciate life, to feel “joyful” as she says, also was the motivation behind her new book, Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives.

The tome features the stories of  six people for whom adversity brought a silver lining. Kotb lives the lesson. When she walks in to 30 Rock each morning, “I feel blessed and lucky.”

And that means she doesn’t pine for Savannah Guthrie‘s position. A Guthrie fan, Kotb says she did not lobby for that spot when it opened up last year, happy with her current gig and Read more

Al Roker on the Morning Show Wars: ‘We Are Coming Back’

This year, NBC’s Al Roker nears his 35th anniversary with NBC.  But that hasn’t changed his new-kid-on-the-block perspective.

“It’s still kind of surreal, in that you’re on this show that’s part of broadcasting history,” Roker told TVNewser in Chicago Tuesday while in town on a book tour.  “It’s still kind of heady. You get a front row seat to history, and you get to do cool stuff. And you get paid! That’s not bad.”

In his 17 years with “Today,” he’s nearly experienced it all, including years of soaring ratings, and, more recently, when the numbers have fallen back to earth. Roker chooses to find the silver lining.

“Every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to get a kick in the slats, to remind you that you gotta work hard, that you gotta do what you need to do,” says Roker. “Today’s” turbulent year has included slipping to second place after 15 years of being No. 1 and the messy departure a few months later of Ann Curry from the anchor chair.

“Was it difficult? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, you are defined by how you respond to tough times,” says Roker.

“And the good news is that we are coming back. The demos are responding and everything else will follow.”

After the jump, watch video of Roker discussing his tenure at NBC, his future in TV, and why he feels Willard Scott may have left the morning show game too soon.

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