"Even at age 10 it was fairly clear to me that if the Soviet Union dropped a hydrogen bomb on us, climbing under my little wooden desk and putting my hands over my head wasn't going to help. I spent a lot of time afraid of what's going to happen because I would see these images on television of Khrushchev pounding his shoe at the UN and the tests of the bombs that were being conducted, and I would go to bed terrified. No one talked to me about this. My parents didn't talk to me about what I was watching, my school didn't talk to me, no one in the church talked to me, certainly no one on television addressed my fears as a kid of the news that I was seeing. Don't you think I didn't think about that years later when we went to start Nick News."
About This Interview
In her three-hour Archive interview, noted journalist Linda Ellerbee talks about her beginnings as a writer, who transitioned to working as an on-air correspondent in local news. She discusses moving to network television, working on such programs as Weekend and The NBC Nightly News. She then discusses the formation of her production company Lucky Duck Productions, and its keystone news series for kids Nick News. Throughout the interview Ellerbee discusses the state of the news industry as well as her philosophy about how news should be covered on television. Karen Herman conducted the interview in New York, NY on June 9, 2010.
Linda Ellerbee, respected and outspoken broadcast journalist, has functioned as a network news correspondent, anchor, writer, producer, and is currently president of her own production company, Lucky Duck Productions. Gaining fame in the 1970s and 1980s for her stints as an NBC News Washington correspondent, Weekend co-anchor, reporter, and co-anchor of NBC News Overnight, Linda Ellerbee became a symbol for a different type of reporter: literate, funny, irreverent, and never condescending. Her personal style attracted a diverse and dedicated following of viewers on her stories that covered everything from politics to pop culture. "And so it goes" is her trademark broadcast tag line and the title of her 1986 bestseller "And So it Goes:" Adventures in Television, an amusing and candid look at the realities of the profession.
Ellerbee's career at NBC News climaxed with her appointment as co-anchor of an overnight news broadcast, NBC News Overnight. Though the program failed with audiences, Ellerbee and the concept were critical successes. The duPont Columbia awards cited Overnight as "possibly the best written and most intelligent news program ever." She left the network news business in 1986, after serving a stint as anchor for ABC News' short-lived Our World.
Her television production company, Lucky Duck Productions, has a reputation as a supplier of outstanding children's programming. Founded with partner Rolfe Tessem in 1987 the company has won three CableAces, two Peabodys, a duPont, and an Emmy. Each week Ellerbee writes and hosts Nick News and the quarterly Nick News Special Editions, the Nickelodeon news magazine for children and young people, both produced by Lucky Duck Productions. These shows have given Lucky Duck a reputation for introducing quality news journalism on a broad range of subjects to its audience. These series have been honored with a Peabody, Columbia-duPont Awards, the National Education Association, and the Parents Choice Awards. The Peabody citation given in 1991 notes the award was given for presenting news in a thoughtful and non-condescending manner for both children and adults. Other Lucky Duck projects for such clients as Nickelodeon, MTV, HBO, Fox, and Time-Life include several projects for young adults and documentary or news shows for all viewers.
In 1996 Ellerbee was again involved in expanding and experimenting with media forms. She began writing and hosting a monthly online public affairs interview program, On the Record, produced by Microsoft and Lucky Duck Productions, which combines print, television, and computer technology.
LINDA ELLERBEE (Linda Jane Smith). Born in Bryan, Texas, U.S.A., 15 August 1944. Educated at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, 1962-64. Married: 1) Mac Smith, 1964 (divorced, 1966); 2) Van Veselka, 1968 (divorced, 1971), children: Vanessa and Joshua; 3) Tom Ellerbee, 1973 (divorced, 1974). Disc jockey at WSOM Chicago, 1964-65; program director, KSJO San Francisco, 1967-68; reporter, KJNO Juneau, Alaska, 1969-72; news writer, Associated Press in Dallas, 1972; television reporter, KHOU in Houston, Texas, 1972-73; general assignment reporter, WCBS-TV in New York City, 1973-76; reporter, the Washington bureau of NBC News, 1976-78; co-anchor, network news magazine Weekend, 1978-79; correspondent, NBC Nightly News, 1979-82; co-anchor, NBC News Overnight, 1982-84; co-anchor, Summer Sunday, 1984; reporter, Today, 1984-86; reporter, Good Morning America, 1986; anchor, ABC show Our World, 1986-87; commentator, CNN, 1989; president, Lucky Duck Productions, since 1987; producer, writer, and host, Nick News since 1993; writer, host, On the Record, on-line production with Microsoft, since 1996. Recipient: Peabody Award, 1991. Address: Lucky Duck Productions, 96 Morton St., New York, New York 10014.
1979-82 NBC Nightly News
1982-84 NBC News Overnight
1984 Summer Sunday
1986-87 Our World
1993- Nick News
And So It Goes: Adventures in Television. New York: Putnam's, 1986.
Move On: Adventures in the Real World. New York: Putnam's, 1991.
Lamb, Chris. "From TV Commentator to KFS Columnist." Editor & Publisher (New York), 27 October 1990.
"Linda Ellerbee: Telling Her Own Stories." Broadcasting & Cable (Washington, D.C.), 11 September 1995.
Orenstein, Peggy. "Women on the Verge of a Nervy Breakdown." Mother Jones (Boulder, Colorado), June 1989.