What I’ve Learned: Meredith Vieira, J75 H08, and co-chair of Brighter World: The Campaign for Tufts
For Meredith Vieira, J75, H08, the curiosity that she brought to Tufts as a college student is still going strong. A 14-time Emmy Award winner, she was a 60 Minutes correspondent from 1989-1991, a co-anchor of Today, a special correspondent for NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC, and, for nine years, a moderator of The View. Always eager to embrace new experiences, she also has hosted Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and The Great American Read, and now she is looking forward to hosting and producing 25 Words or Less, a game show returning to television this fall. Her story is a testament to the rewards of hard work and natural gifts, and to the transformational experiences supported by Brighter World, experiences that often, as Vieira remembers, can lead to “some wonderful places.”
A memorable Tufts experience
I just happened to take a course in broadcast journalism my senior year. Our teacher was Les Woodruff, a reporter at WEEI, and he just inspired me with the power of storytelling. For our final projects we were divided into groups to create radio documentaries, and in my group, I was the narrator. Bill Shermer, who was the head of CBS Radio in Boston, was asked to critique us, and after the class, he wanted to speak with me. He asked: “What are you doing when you graduate?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “Well, I do. You have a big future,” and he hired me, on the spot, as an intern. That’s why I say to people when they go to college, they should explore. That was what I was doing when I took that course. I had no notion of where it would lead me, but it has led me to some wonderful places.
Best career advice received when starting out
I was fired from my first job at WJAR-TV in Providence. It was a Friday, and back home, I was crying in my bedroom when my dad came in. He asked what was the matter, and I told him. And he asked me, “Do you think you have what it takes?” I said, “Well, yeah!” And he said: “So then don’t listen to these people. You’re going to have naysayers throughout your life. People who will tell you that you can’t do it. But if you believe you can, you’ll be fine.” So I went in on Monday and basically confronted my boss and said, “I know I have what it takes, and I will succeed.” And to his credit, he rehired me. Whenever I’ve had those moments of doubt, and I have them all the time, I think of my father’s words. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that you have that inner strength. Never give up on yourself.
. . . and for aspiring journalists
There are no shortcuts. It really is a matter of working extremely hard and not resenting that. My attitude is: you do what that job entails, and then some. Just hit the ground running. And for journalists in particular, learn how to listen. Put down your list of questions and engage with the person before you, and the conversation will flow naturally. The art of reporting—most of it is listening and being curious. Be curious in life, no matter what you’re going to do. And follow your dreams, and again, never give up on yourself. At 65, I’m just starting a new show with people who believe in me. And how cool is that, to have this new really fun experience? The way I see it, as you get older, you become more valuable.