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A News Anchor Balances Work and Home

Class Day Speaker Jane Pauley

By Kelly A. E. mason

In the age of post-feminism, the working mother has occupied the center of attention. She is living proof, people say, of the fact that women can have it all--a career, a family, outside interests.

So when newscaster Jane Pauley, the anchor of NBC News' "Today Show", takes the podium in Tercentenary Theater this afternoon to give the Class Day speech, she will be speaking as a representative--if not the archetype--of the new working mother.

She is the third woman ever to speak at Class Day, but Pauley will be the first celebrity working mother ever to address a Harvard graduating class. And Pauley, whose high-profile job and marriage have resulted in publicity such as an article titled, "Jane Pauley's Charmed Life," says she will concentrate her speech on the problems facing the working parent.

For more than a decade, Pauley has been co-anchor of the "Today Show," balancing world travel, 4:30 a.m. wakeups each day and a private life that includes a husband and three children.

In fact, her story sounds almost too much like a magazine-created superwoman profile. Pauley downplays the celebrity status with which she has been associated, saying that her personal life is her own and that, at NBC, she is merely doing her job--no matter how novel her situation may be.

But, as media experts say, the status of a television news anchor today is such that Pauley cannot avoid being made into a symbol, whether or not she seeks it.

"Unavoidably I was going to be a symbol of working parenthood. You cannot minimize [being pregnant with twins on television]. I became a symbol in spite of myself," Pauley says, recounting the furor that surrounded her decision in 1983 to appear on television visibly pregnant.

Married to "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau--who was actually the Harvard Class Day speaker six years ago--Pauley first became pregnant in 1983 with twins and sparked a heated controversy about the professionalism of her actions by appearing on television.

Some alleged that her broadcasting while so obviously pregnant was unprofessional; some even suggested that a pregnant woman should not be working, let alone working in a high-pressure news job.

Others, though, have heralded her as a new role model.

"She has performed a difficult role on the Today program with style and professionalism...I think, as a role model. Whoever did the selecting [for Class Day] did a good job," says Marvin Kalb, director of the Barone Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy and a former NBC News correspondent.

Pauley says that, in broadcasting pregnant, she was not so much making a political statement as much as she was just doing her job.

"I felt obligated to work. It would not have been politically appropriate for me to be begging off assignments. But I never exploited my pregnancies. I never did segments on raising twins," Pauley says.

Pauley is almost aggressively humble about her role in the media. She is conscious that she is a female in a male-dominated field, but is reluctant to call her work ground-breaking. She says that women like Barbara Walters and Marlene Sanders were the first prominent female journalists--that she is only following where they first went.

"I was part of the second wave of women...I can't say I was a pioneer," Pauley says.

Despite the protestations, Pauley was something of a trailblazer. In the mid-'70s, she was a news anchor on WMAQ-TV, NBC's Chicago affiliate--the first woman to co-anchor a regularly scheduled weeknight news program in that city.

But it would be unfair to imply that Pauley is not aware of her status as a working mother--approximately a year-and-a-half after she gave birth to the twins, she hosted an NBC documentary on "Women, Work and Babies: Can America Cope?"

And Pauley does acknowledge that she, along with Joan Lunden, co-host of ABC's "Good Morning, America," was one the first working mothers on television with young children.

Even today, there are few women in news with children, Pauley says. She notes with some excitement that Maria Shriver, also of NBC News, will soon join the ranks.

But while Pauley says working motherhood involves compromise and a continual search for the right balance between work and family, women in the spotlight can combine the personal and the professional.

"I can't show up at my boss's door, saying, `Send me away somewhere.' It's definitely a trade-off. I think I do good work for NBC, and I think they appreciate it," she says.

Pauley does not shirk opportunities to address the problems of what she calls "working parenthood," but she is not willing to surrender completely to celebrity. She says she is protective of her privacy and the privacy of her family.

"[I don't mind talking about it] as long as I don't have to say what Garry and I have for dinner, who cooks, who does the dishes," Pauley says.

But Americans' insatiable demand for the quirky details of media stars' personal lives does not mesh easily with desire to separate work from home, according to Kalb.

Kalb says that Pauley's media star status is responsible for the intrusions into her personal life--not her position as a working mother. "[The Class Committee] didn't select Jane because she's a working mother, you selected her because she's on t.v. every morning--let's just be honest about our motives," he says.

Radcliffe Class Marshal Virginia L. Stimpson '89, who helped select Pauley for the Class Day speech, says the news anchor's gender was a factor in the choice, but that she did not think Pauley would address women's issues specifically.

"I think we wanted a woman who had a home life and a family because we wanted someone to represent that balance, because it's something we're all worried about," Stimpson says.

"It's definitely not going to be just a problem of women to have that balance," she adds.

Pauley also says she thinks working parenthood is no longer solely a feminist issue, but one that concerns all segments of society.

"There are obviously senior men at Harvard who have an interest in what I symbolize most...The interest has lost its gender specificity," Pauley says.

Pauley says that she will address the impact of working parenthood in America. Pauley, who grew up in Indianapolis with a mother who was a homemaker, says she is particularly interested in the problems facing the first generation raised by two working parents.

"If [people] have full-time careers, they can't be full-time parents. Let's worry about that question," says Pauley. "We have to decide whether we're doing [the children] justice, or if we're rationalizing."

Parental Responsibility

Pauley says she thinks parenting is a heady experience, and that she believes parents have a greater responsibility to society because they need to worry about the future of their children.

"The gist of my speech is worry. The world is a difficult place to raise children," Pauley says.

The news anchor says she is a little nervous about addressing the Class of 1989. "Following Mother Theresa is a little terrifying," Pauley says.

She also says she is somewhat daunted to be speaking the day before Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto '73, who will give the Commencement address tomorrow. But she says she does not worry about comparison between the two speeches because Bhutto--who is, as Pauley notes, a working mother--will give a speech with a more global focus, while she will address American social issues.

"Domestic issues are every bit as crucial as other issues. The issues on the homefront--I don't see them as lesser issues," Pauley says.

Pauley, who is not paid for making the speech, will pay for travel and work time lost herself. She says she felt the invitation to speak at Harvard was "not something you turn down lightly--it gives you an opportunity to think about things."

Apparently, Pauley has spent some time of her own thinking about "things." The tone of her speech will not be one of despair, but of caution about the future that is, for her, a source of concern.

"Having children is an optimistic act--that the world will be a fit place for another generation. But sometimes it seems the world is becoming less and less hospitable for humanity," Pauley says.

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