Biography of Jane Pauley

Wed, 03/10/2010

Margaret Jane Pauley was born on October 31, 1950 in Indianapolis, Indiana, is an American television journalist, and has been involved in news reporting since 1975. She is most known for her 13-year tenure on NBC’s Today program and later 12 years of Dateline NBC, and has acknowledged publicly her struggle with mental health and bipolar disorder.

Jane Pauley was one of the best known morning television personalities during the 1970s and 1980s. After graduating from Indiana University in 1971, she worked as a reporter for an Indianapolis television station for a few years.

Pauley competed in debate and public speaking tournaments through the Indiana High School Forensic Association while enrolled at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis. Pauley graduated from Warren Central High School in 1968. She subsequently earned a scholarship to Indiana University, where she was involved in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. After college, she worked from 1972 to 1975 at WISH in Indianapolis and from 1975 to 1976 at WMAQ in Chicago; from there she joined network television.

From 1976 to 1989 Pauley was the co-host, with Tom Brokaw and later Bryant Gumbel, of NBC’s The Today Show. Following in the footsteps, both in career and in style, of the first female anchor of the show, Barbara Walters, she became a symbol for professional women, more specifically female journalists, in the 1980s (In her autobiography, “And So It Goes”, Pauley’s colleague Linda Ellerbee wrote, “She (Pauley) is what I want to be when I grow up”). NBC briefly experimented with a trio of anchors, Pauley, Gumbel, and Chris Wallace, before returning to a co-anchor format with Gumbel and with Pauley serving in a deferential co-host capacity.

In 1989, following months of conjecture about Pauley’s publicly reported dislike of the grueling morning assignment and ambition to work in prime-time television, she announced her resignation from Today. Speculation in the media seemed to imply that NBC executives had eased her out to advance younger NBC newscaster Deborah Norville, who had begun to play a larger role in the two-hour morning program.

After leaving The Today Show, Pauley hosted Real Life with Jane Pauley and served as deputy anchor for NBC Nightly News.

From 1992 to 2003, Pauley co-hosted NBC’s Dateline NBC. In 2004, she returned to television as host of The Jane Pauley Show, a syndicated daytime talk show. On the show, she discussed her bipolar disorder at length.

Much like her earlier attempt at solo hosting following her Today tenure, The Jane Pauley Show never gained traction in the ratings, and was canceled after one season. Since her talk show’s cancellation, Pauley has made few appearances on television programs. She led a half-hour discussion on PBS’ Depression: Out of the Shadows, which aired in May 2008. She also campaigned publicly for President Obama in her home state of Indiana and participates in the Smart Talk Lecture Series.

In September 2009, Pauley lent her name to the Jane Pauley Community Health Center, a facility in collaboration between the Community Health Network and the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, Indiana. The center serves the local community, including students and their families, regardless of insurance or income, with an emphasis on integrating medical, dental and behavorial health. Pauley, who was diagonosed with bipolar disorder in 2001, insisted that the center address all aspects of wellness.

Pauley is also affiliated with the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, where she serves on the institute’s leadership board. She spoke publicly about her experience with bipolar disorder at the institute’s opening ceremony in 2005, and she also appears in a 2009 video about the research mission of the institute.

Pauley is known for revealing very little, if anything, of her private life, which made the disclosure of her bipolar disorder all the more unexpected. The timing of her announcement coincided with the release of her autobiography, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, (2004) and the launch of her daytime talk show.

In October 2006, Pauley and her lawyers filed a lawsuit against The New York Times for allegedly duping her into lending her name and likeness to an advertising supplement popular with drug companies. Pauley maintains she believed she was being interviewed by a Times reporter.

Pauley is married to Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, and they have three children: twins Ross and Rachel, born in 1983, and Thomas, born in 1986.