Award-winning broadcast journalist Kiran Chetry seems equally serious about her family, women's issues and her career. Speaking Thursday afternoon on "Women in the Media" at St. John's Episcopal Church, the Nepalese American talked about her life in Larchmont (where she lives with her husband and two children), her mentors, the role of women in the news and more.
The talk was sponsored by the Larchmont Historical Society- of which Chetry's husband is a board member- in connection with Women's History Month.
Ms. Chetry, 35, is co-host of CNN's "American Morning" with John Roberts on weekdays, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. She and husband Chris Knowles, WPIX-TV meteorologist, have lived in Larchmont for two years. They met in Erie, Penn., where both were news anchors.
Chetry wakes at 2:45 a.m. and works behind the scenes until 6 a.m. airtime. "I'm home by 12:30 and I eat lunch with my children and we play, then we take our naps," she said. "We try to have dinner together in the kitchen even if we're not all eating at the same time. Then I try to be in bed by 8 p.m."
Beginning her career in Rockville, Md., Chetry worked in Pennsylvania and California before landing in New York, first at Fox News Channel and then at CNN, joining "American Morning" in April 2007. From the field and anchor desk she has covered the Virginia Tech shooting and the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and was one of the first to interview Captain Chesley Sullenberger after his Hudson River landing last year.
Ms. Chetry is the daughter of a Pennsylvania mother and a Nepalese father who met in the Peace Corps in Nepal before moving to the U.S. to raise a family.
"I am very proud to be the first Nepalese American on a national newscast," she said.
Chetry spoke about the death of a Nepalese journalist in January (Uma Singh, 26, was hacked to death after reporting on women's rights and criticizing the dowry system). She also mentioned that the U.S. State Department had asked her to plan a Nepal trip to visit universities and the National Press of Nepal "as a form of women's empowerment in news," Chetry said.
Conceding that being a woman news anchor in a male-dominated field "is still a struggle today," she singled out three trailblazers she admires.
First was Frances Buss, who died last month at 92, and famously parlayed a job as temporary receptionist at CBS into eventually becoming the first full-time woman director at any network.
Next, Chetry singled out Barbara Walters, who in 1976 was the first female co-anchor of network evening news with Harry Reasoner. "Reasoner was insulted at having to share the spotlight with a woman and was openly hostile to Walters on the air," said Chetry.
Katie Couric "is like a mentor to me and someone I aspire to be in TV news," Chetry said. Chetry remembered that while some thought Couric would identify with Sarah Palin as a mother and therefore lob softballs in their September 2008 interview, "Katie's interview was a game changer in the election when she famously asked Palin, 'What newspapers do you read regularly?'"
With Couric coming up on the end of her contract, Chetry was asked if she'd like the job. "Is it my ultimate goal?" she asked. "I don't think so... I wonder if those jobs will continue. Because of instant access to technology, there's no need to make an appointment to view the news to get news. You can look it up anytime."
Asked the question every successful woman is asked, "how do you manage a career and family?," Ms. Chetry remembered that before she had a family she and Mr. Knowles would hang out with the crew after work. "That was before I had a family. I had a different point of view than I have now."