Georgia native Deborah Norville, a journalist and author, is best known for her brief stint as the co-anchor of NBC’s Today show and as the longtime host of the nationally syndicated television newsmagazine Inside Edition.
Deborah Anne Norville was born in Dalton on August 8, 1958, to Merle and Zachary Norville. While attending Dalton High School she won the 1976 Georgia Junior Miss pageant. She went on to attend the University of Georgia in Athens, where she graduated summa cum laude from the Grady School of Journalism in 1979. While still a student, Norville began her career as an intern reporter, covering two sessions of the Georgia General Assembly for the television program The Lawmakers on Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta; during this period she interviewed powerful state lawmakers, including Paul Broun Sr. She also reported for WAGA-TV in Atlanta on such major news stories as the Atlanta child murders, a case that garnered national attention for two years.
In 1982 Norville moved to Chicago, Illinois, and worked as an anchor and reporter for the NBC-owned television station WMAQ-TV. In Chicago she was also a contributing editor for McCall’s and Inside Sports magazines.
Norville became the anchor of NBC News at Sunrise, the network’s early morning newscast, in 1987. While there, she won her first national Emmy Award in 1989 for her coverage of the democratic uprising in Romania. In 1987 she became a regular substitute for the Today show’s news team, and in 1989 she became the show’s new lead correspondent, replacing John Palmer. In response to her growing popularity and in an effort to improve the show’s declining viewership among young women, NBC gradually increased Norville’s responsibilities on Today.
In October 1989 Today cohost Jane Pauley announced that she would be leaving the program, and NBC immediately named Norville as her replacement. Because of her quick rise from news desk to cohost, critics accused her of being the “other woman” and breaking up the longtime on-air partnership of Bryant Gumbel and Pauley. Gumbel and Norville’s debut received poor reviews, and ratings fell throughout the following year.
By the end of Norville’s first year, Today, long the dominant morning program, had fallen behind ABC’s Good Morning America, with critics placing most of the blame on Norville. In February 1991 she went on maternity leave. After her departure, Today, with substitute cohost Katie Couric, received markedly higher ratings, which led NBC to announce that Norville would not return.
In an effort to capitalize on her name recognition from the Today show, ABC hired Norville to replace Sally Jessy Raphael on its nightly radio interview program. The nationally syndicated Deborah Norville Radio Show debuted in 1992 to mediocre reviews. Critics rarely commented on the show’s format or Norville’s interview skills but rather discussed the Today show scandal and her supposed ousting of Jane Pauley. The program lasted one year.
In 1993 CBS hired Norville as a correspondent for Street Stories, a prime-time newsmagazine hosted by veteran journalist Ed Bradley. Norville also began anchoring the Sunday edition of the CBS Evening News and working as a reporter at 48 Hours. She won a second Emmy Award for an investigative piece called “48 Hours—Flood, Sweat and Tears,” a look at the 1993 Mississippi flood disaster. After canceling Street Stories in 1994, CBS hired Norville to anchor America Tonight, another prime-time newsmagazine show that had a brief run.
In 1995 Norville replaced Bill O’Reilly as the host of the popular news and entertainment program Inside Edition, a position she has continued to hold ever since. In 2004 MSNBC announced that Norville would anchor a new prime-time interview program called Deborah Norville Tonight, but this venture proved short-lived. Early in 2005 she abandoned the MSNBC project to spend more time with her family and to work on investigative pieces for Inside Edition.
Drawing from her tumultuous experiences on the Today show, Norville wrote a self-help book for women called Back on Track: How to Straighten Out Your Life When It Throws You a Curve (1997). Ten years later she published the motivational book Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You (2007), which was a New York Times best-seller. Her follow-up book, The Power of Respect: Benefit from the Most Forgotten Element of Success, debuted in 2009. That same year Norville, an expert seamstress and knitter, published Knit with Deborah Norville and launched her own yarn collection. She has also written two children’s books, I Don’t Want to Sleep Tonight (1999) and I Can Fly (2001).
Norville married Karl Wellner in 1987; the couple has three children, Niki, Kyle, and Mikaela.